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Aurora mayor launches GOP campaign for governor

Richard Irvin and Rep. Avery Bourne announced their campaign on January 17, 2022.
Richard Irvin and Rep. Avery Bourne announced their campaign on January 17, 2022.(Irvin Bourne Campaign)
Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 6:03 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - Richard Irvin is the latest Republican to announce a campaign for Illinois governor. The first Black mayor of Aurora could end up being the front-runner in a crowded GOP primary with financial support from the state’s richest man, Ken Griffin.

Irvin hopes to become the first Black governor of Illinois. Of course, Irvin’s announcement was symbolic as he launched his campaign on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He is an Army veteran and former prosecutor who has served as mayor of Aurora since 2017.

While his campaign will likely cater more to Republicans in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, Irvin’s running mate Avery Bourne is a Republican state representative who he hopes will help gain downstate support. The Morrisonville native was the youngest person to be sworn into the Illinois General Assembly when Bourne first took office in 2015.

“As Richard’s partner, I look forward to righting J.B. Pritzker’s wrongs in ruling our state with unilateral authority,” Bourne said. “We will fight to restore parents’ rights and encourage local control because we believe all residents and communities of Illinois should have a seat at the table.”

Both want to cut taxes and clean up the corruption in Springfield. Irvin says he is also committed to tough-on-crime policies as a former prosecutor. He also specifically noted strong support for police in his campaign launch video.

“Defund the police is dumb, dangerous and it costs lives,” Irvin said. “And I believe that all lives matter. Every family should be safe.”

Irvin claims that crime has gone down in his city because the budget for the Aurora Police Department went up and he hired more police each year. There still were more than150 shootings in Aurora during 2020.

Irvin’s announcement also comes just days after Gov. J.B. Pritzker put $90 million into his re-election campaign. Irvin was recruited to run by Ken Griffin and other Republican operatives. Many reports have indicated Griffin is willing to put millions into the campaigns for his slate of statewide candidates.

Irvin focused on his family’s background throughout the campaign launch video, noting that his great-grandfather, Richard Baxter Irvin, was born a slave in Tennessee. The candidate says he has a dream similar to his relative who fought challenges at an early age before moving to Illinois to start a new life. Irvin’s dream focuses on what Illinois could be with a growing economy and safe families.

He also recognized parental rights in schools and corruption in Springfield, two key areas that many Republicans use as talking points.

“We can overcome the challenges; it’s what I’m good at,” Irvin said. “But we must dare to dream of an Illinois that is free, prosperous and proud enough to truly be the Land of Lincoln again.”

Irvin is now one of five Republican candidates for governor alongside Sen. Darren Bailey, former senator Paul Schimpf, businessman Gary Rabine, and Jesse Sullivan. Yet, many are already questioning whether Irvin is a “true Republican.” He has voted in several Democratic primaries and previously called Pritzker a good friend who provided help to Aurora during the pandemic.

Still, Illinois GOP Chairman Don Tracy says Irvin is a Republican, and he welcomes anyone to join a “stellar field of gubernatorial candidates.”

“I urge all Republicans to adopt Ronald Reagan’s famous 11th commandment and to focus their fire on Gov. J.B. Pritzker,” Tracy said. “I’m confident we’ll have a spirited primary of ideas, backgrounds and plans for the future, that GOP primary voters will nominate the best candidate to defeat Pritzker, and that after the primary Republicans will unite around our nominee.”

Tracy also told Republicans to ignore lies from Pritzker and the Democratic Governors Association who may try to sway the Republican primary. Meanwhile, DGA Executive Director Noam Lee called the Illinois GOP gubernatorial primary a “clown car” of candidates.

“Expect to see a mad scramble as Irvin tries to walk back his years of praise for Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s leadership — something we thank the mayor for — as well as a double down on his anti-choice views as he tries to prove his far-right bona fides,” Lee stated. “And we’re sure Griffin will waste no time filling in the other gaping holes in Irvin’s platform as Griffin tries to make the Irvin campaign a vehicle to drag Illinois back to the disastrous days of the Rauner administration.”

Pritzker’s campaign team also quickly responded to Irvin’s announcement Monday. Spokesperson Natalie Edelstein said the people of Illinois do not want a repeat of the Bruce Rauner years with mismanagement and policies setting the state back.

“The governor is focused on continuing to lead Illinois through these challenging times, building on his record of paying our bills on time and improving the state’s credit rating, investing in our roads, bridges, and transportation infrastructure, setting a national standard for action on climate that will bring down energy costs and create jobs, and protecting a woman’s fundamental right to choose,” Edelstein said.

Black faith leaders from the Chicago suburbs also released a statement in response to Irvin’s campaign announcement on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Apostle Carl L. White Jr. with the Southland Ministerial Health Network said it’s antithetical to everything King taught to use the day to push an agenda ignoring the “plight of those less fortunate.”

“A platform that makes no mention of just, equitable housing and lending practices, providing livable wages, ending health care disparities, preventing voter suppression and working for true peace, is not a platform Dr. King would support,” White said. “It is a disgrace to attempt to cherry-pick his legacy to fit a narrative, and we will not stand for it.”

Several of the Republican gubernatorial candidates also criticized Irvin’s campaign. But Bailey pulled a Democratic ballot during the primary election in 2008, and Sullivan worked as a campaign volunteer for Colleen Callahan, a former Democratic candidate for the 18th Congressional district against former Rep. Aaron Schock.

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