State Senator Darren Bailey doubled his comments that he considered Chicago a criminal “hell hole” during a debate Thursday night with Republican candidates for governor when he also aggressively tried to brand rival Richard Irvin a “corrupt Democrat.”
But Irvin, the mayor of the suburb of Aurora, tried to shut down criticism from Bailey as well as his other GOP rivals, saying they were saddened because he “hurt their political hopes.”
Overall, though, it was the issue of crime that dominated the hour-long debate that hosted ABC-7 Chicago, Univision and the League of Women Voters of Illinois. It was the first, and probably last, televised forum with all six GOP candidates ahead of the June 28 primary – although candidate Jesse Sullivan from Petersburg participated from a distance after being tested positive for COVID-19.
The debate came amid two mass shootings across the country in just over a week. On Wednesday, an armed man killed four people and then himself at a medical clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The previous week, 19 children and two adults were killed at an Uvalde, Texas, elementary school before the gunman was killed by a law enforcement officer. In both cases, the armed men used powerful, high-capacity assault weapons.
Just minutes before the debate, President Joe Biden addressed the public in a prime-time televised speech, asking rhetorically, “For God’s sake, how much more carnage are we willing to accept?” Biden proposed raising the age to 21 from 18 to buy an assault weapon instead of banning the weapons, which is more difficult politically to achieve.
But when Bailey was asked what steps could be taken to make schools and the nation safer, he said that since Illinois already had “some of the most stringent gun laws in the country,” the answer was “obvious.”
“I see young people shouting for help. And sometimes they are ignored by the family or by our education system, by our bourgeois groups, ”Bailey said. “We must offer the mental solutions and help these people to be able to get help and to be able to function in life. And I think that’s the only solution we have. “
Irvin said the state needs to look at “common sense” solutions.
“We need to focus on security, and we need to focus on responsibility and make sure we keep these weapons … out of the hands of criminals and keep these weapons out of the hands of people with mental illness.” As for the details, Irvin said, “We need to look at this holistically – how do we stop crime in general in the state of Illinois? And we need to make sure we support our men and women” in law enforcement.
Sullivan, a venture capitalist in cryptocurrency who portrays himself as a conservative political outsider when he makes his first bid for the election office, accused the Democrats of politicizing the tragedies.
“You know the Democrats use every excuse, every crisis to step in and try to say that gun control is the answer,” he said. “The real problem is the liberal agenda, a liberal agenda that has taken God and faith out of our society.”
Sullivan also urged voters to recall Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx, even though there is no provision in Illinois law to recall county prosecutors from office, and Foxx’s current term runs until 2024.
Bull Valley businessman Gary Rabine said children in schools should be treated “like the gold of Fort Knox” and suggested armed officers, metal detectors, secured doors and advanced concealed training for teachers. Former State Senator Paul Schimpf, a military veteran, suggested that retired military veterans be used as part of improved security staff in schools, while Max Solomon, a Hazel Crest lawyer, called for a relaxation of all gun laws.
Last week, during duel debates that split the field into separate broadcasts, Bailey used his appearance on WGN-TV to describe Chicago as “a crime-ridden, corrupt, dysfunctional hell hole.” On Thursday, he doubled the claim.
“You’ve probably heard me refer to it as a hellhole. And you want to know what happened within hours of me making that statement? A homeless man was burned alive. He’s fighting for his life today,” Bailey said. reference to an attack on 75-year-old Joseph Kromelis, known as “The Walking Man.” “Mayor Lightfoot, Governor (JB) Pritzker, Kim Foxx and their vigilant, anti-police policies are responsible for this. And if we are to restore Chicago, someone has to tell the truth. I said it and when I am elected governor “I will solve the problem and we will restore greatness to Chicago.”
The debate provided an opportunity for rivals Irvin, the best-funded candidate who has run a candidacy largely through TV commercials and emails, to go on the offensive.
After noticing reports that Irvin has received campaign contributions for his mayoral campaigns from firms that won Aurora city contracts, Bailey has repeatedly questioned Irvin’s Republican loyalty. The Aurora mayor has voted in Democratic primary elections in 2014, 2016 and 2020.
“I’m not interested in defeating you just because you’re a Democrat,” Bailey said. “I’m interested in defeating you because you’re a corrupt Democrat and your pay-to-play policy in the city of Aurora.”
Bailey cast a Democratic primary ballot in the 2008 presidential election, and Irvin has used it to attack the state senator’s GOP bona fides. Sullivan questioned how Irvin uses his multimillion-dollar campaign resources.
Richard said that his greatest and only strength – he has a lot of money that he is willing to throw around with. Money can not buy character for you. Money can not buy you a conservative record, ”Sullivan said.
Rabine also attacked Irvin’s 15-year background as a defense attorney, which Irvin typically ignores in favor of the five years he spent as a local prosecutor.
“There is no one else running up here who has freed rapists as well as wife bankers,” Rabine said of Irvin’s harsh crime scenes. “I do not see how you should govern the state that way.”
But Irvin largely refused to engage in his rival’s attack.
“My opponents here on stage are attacking me and I understand that and I understand that,” he said. “They are threatened by the fact that I violate their political aspirations and I hurt their political aspirations.”
The debate took place when Illinois’ repeal of its parenting announcement on abortion becomes law. The 1995 law required abortion providers to notify a parent if a minor daughter applied for an abortion. All GOP challengers have at least promised to push for the reintroduction of the Notification Act as part of their efforts to limit abortion rights in Illinois.
But Sullivan criticized Irvin for once again refusing to go ahead and say whether he believed the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed abortion without extensive government regulation should be overturned.
“I think conservatives around the state need to take this opportunity to hear from Richard Irvin. Do you support the overthrow of Roe vs. Wade? Do you support abortions funded by taxpayers? This is a clear conservative value. , which people deserve to hear from you. “
With just over three weeks before the primary election day, the race has already experienced a heated TV advertising war. A wave of recent commercials by Irvin has boosted his support for law enforcement. Other ads attack Bailey, a nod as the race may move into a two-man competition.
Bailey’s attack ads are critical of the senator’s record of voting for property tax increases while sitting on a local school board, also claiming that Bailey receives Democratic support for attacking Irvin because Democrats believe Pritzker could more easily defeat Bailey in the November general election. .
Funding for Irvin’s advertising campaign is his biggest campaign contributor, hedge fund CEO Ken Griffin, who has now put $ 50 million behind Aurora mayor. The effort is part of billionaire Griffin’s political feud with Pritzker, an entrepreneur and billionaire heir to Hyatt Hotel’s fortune.
Bailey, who avoided expensive Chicago commercials until last month, has benefited from the funding of another billionaire, conservative mega-donor Richard Uihlein of Lake Forest, who owns the Uline business of products and office supplies. Uihlein gave Bailey $ 3 million earlier in the week, bringing his total contribution to the senator down to more than $ 9 million. In addition, Uihlen has provided an independent spending group that supports Bailey and runs Irvin attack ads nearly $ 8.1 million.