SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — The day after Aurora mayor Richard Irvin launched his campaign for governor, 60 other Republicans backed his primary bid, giving him an immediate lead in the “endorsement primary.”
The long list of veteran Republicans included recognizable names like House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), former downstate Congressman John Shimkus, and former Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger.
Irvin’s running mate, Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Morrisonville), is well-liked and well connected in downstate Republican circles, and offers the suburban mayor another in-road to build fast alliances with party organizers and their network of volunteers.
Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie (R-Lake Zurich) did not include his name in the first round of endorsements, but said he has spoken to Irvin already, and came away with a positive impression.
“He’s the only candidate that is from the suburbs,” McConchie said. Political strategists see the suburbs as the key battleground in forming a coalition wide enough to topple Governor J.B. Pritzker in November.
“So certainly having been here gives him an advantage,” McConchie said, before talking up the candidate’s personal story. “Being able to talk about the issues, having grown up here, having lived and worked here, and risen from Section Eight housing to ending up in a position where he’s actually mayor of the town where he grew up very poor to a single mother, I think that’s a great story.”
State senator Darren Bailey (R-Louisville) attacked Irvin as a “career Democrat” because he voted in Democratic primaries in years when Donald Trump was on the Republican ballot.
McConchie said he asked Irvin about his voting record, and seemed satisfied with his answer.
“At the end of the day, I believe it’s what you’ve done, and what you are saying, what your vision is for the state, that ultimately makes a difference,” McConchie said. “I think he needs to be able to explain to Republican primary voters who may have a question as to why he did that. He needs to explain it to their satisfaction, and I look forward to hearing him do that.”
Pritzker, whose campaign team is itching for a chance to muddy Irvin and tie him to billionaire megadonor Ken Griffin, called on the candidate to take questions from reporters.
“If you want to have the job of being Governor, you should have to take questions from members of the media just like I do,” Pritzker said at a press conference in Chicago. “I would hope that any candidate that is running and announced that they’re going to run is going to take questions, and not wait weeks after announcing to do something.”
Irvin’s campaign launched two days ago, and staffers have pledged he will meet the media soon.
The mayor’s entrance into the race came just as other GOP candidates were disclosing their latest campaign finance reports. The new filings showed Gary Rabine closed out 2021 as the fundraising frontrunner with $580,626 in new contributions, taking a slight edge over Bailey’s $499,258.
However, the Bailey team is showing early signs of a faltering campaign, according to campaign finance experts who reviewed their most recent financial documents. Bailey brought in $394,986 more during the third quarter of 2021 than he did in the final quarter, suggesting his early fundraising surge may have lost its momentum or hit its ceiling.
“You should be getting new donors,” campaign finance expert and University of Illinois Springfield professor emeritus Kent Redfield said.
“You want the trend line to be going up, and that’s not the case,” Redfield said of Bailey’s campaign. “Particularly if you’re building a small-donor kind of network, you want to be engaging those people and hitting them up and getting them to continue to make donations.”
Bailey’s campaign also spent $794,404 over the same three-month period, burning through more than half of their new contributions and their existing cash stockpile. Bailey doled a large chunk of that money out to a few of his closest political allies on the far-right fringe of the House Republican Caucus.
“If he is spending a lot of money contributing to other other candidates, that really doesn’t do you much good,” Redfield said. “You need to be beyond the base. You need to be in the suburbs.”
Neither Rabine nor Bailey have anywhere near the $9.1 million pile of money sitting in Jesse Sullivan’s campaign fund, though the venture capitalist still has not named a running mate. Sullivan needs to name a running mate before he can begin circulating petitions to get on the ballot.
Redfield, who has studied and analyzed Illinois campaign finances for decades, said he’s never seen a contribution as large as the $90 million check Pritzker deposited into his campaign fund over the weekend.
Redfield said Pritzker was upping the ante to “let everybody know that he’s serious.”
“It gets to the point where you can’t really spend any more money,” he said. “There is a saturation point. There’s only so much air time, there’s only so many mailers. The 15th mailer or the 20th TV ad, the marginal return on that’s going to get to be pretty small, but nobody wants to quit. Nobody wants to leave anything in the tank.”
The primary election is scheduled for June 28th.