By SARA BURNETT – Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois Republicans chose a candidate on Tuesday to take on Governor JB Pritzker, a billionaire who easily won the Democratic nomination and who spent millions to get the rival he wants and his already significant advantage in the state this to increase trap.
With the polls in Illinois closed, the Republican frontrunner was conservative state Senator Darren Bailey, a rancher who received approval from former President Donald Trump on Saturday. Bailey raised his state profile during the pandemic by opposing Pritzker’s COVID-19 measures. He sued Pritzker over a stay-at-home order issued by the governor, and was escorted from the legislature floor for refusing to wear a mask.
Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune seeking his second term, and the Democratic Governors Association spent heavily on advertising to help Bailey win the GOP primary, including with ads noting that he was “100% pro -life”. While those posts have boosted Bailey’s reputation with Republican voters, they’re likely to hurt him in a general election in a place where Democrats control all offices statewide and voters rejected Trump twice by double digits.
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Bailey rejected the notion that he cannot win, criticizing “establishment Republicans” for contributing to decades of mismanagement in the state.
“We are going to send a message to the Republican establishment that we will not be bullied into sacrificing our principles to elect their candidates,” he told a crowd during a campaign halt in rural Illinois this month.
Republican Richard Irvin, a former district attorney who served as the first black mayor of Illinois’ second-largest city, was seen as a top candidate when he joined the race, with financial backing from billionaire Ken Griffin. But despite Griffin putting $50 million into Irvin’s campaign, he was damaged by repeated attacks from his rivals, including Pritzker.
Unlike Bailey and his four other rivals, Irvin avoided talking about abortion or saying whether he voted for Trump. The mayor of Aurora instead focused on issues like crime in Chicago and Pritzker-signed legislation that he said made policing more difficult. He said he is against abortion except in cases of rape or incest or to protect the mother’s life.
Irvin also argued that he was the only GOP candidate to beat Pritzker in November because he could win votes from Republicans, Independents and some Democrats.
“The reality is that I am the candidate who can win this race and that is why the attacks are coming,” Irvin said during a factory visit.
Tim Zink, a 70-year-old retiree, wore a National Rifle Association T-shirt when he cast his vote in McHenry, the northern Illinois town of McHenry.
“I just love the way he’s on just about everything,” Zink said. He added that he didn’t trust Irvin, whom he called “two-faced” and “friends with Pritzker.”
Joe Berstein, of Chicago’s northern suburb of Highland Park, voted for Pritzker: “So far I think he’s doing well.”
The other Republican candidates are business owner Gary Rabine, venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, former state senator Paul Schimpf and attorney Max Solomon.
Pritzker defeated a much lesser-known rival, Beverly Miles, for the nomination. He has said that he is not afraid of a rival coming into November.
“I’m going up against everyone on the other side of the aisle and we’re going to win,” Pritzker said.
Associated Press/Report for America reporter Claire Savage contributed to this report.
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