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AP Political Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin joined the gubernatorial fray on Monday, entering the race as a Republican challenging incumbent Democrat J.B. Pritzker.
Elected the first Black mayor of Illinois’ second-largest city in 2017, Irvin, 51, is the fifth candidate seeking the GOP spot on the November ballot. He announced his candidacy in a news release and video sent to reporters.
His running mate is Rep. Avery Bourne, 29, a Republican legislator from the central Illinois town of Morrisonville. The youngest lawmaker in Illinois history when appointed in 2015, she has risen to assistant Republican leader in the House and bolsters the ticket’s bona fides with voters south of Interstate 80.
Irvin, an Army veteran of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and former prosecutor, contended without elaborating that as Aurora mayor, he cut spending, spurred economic growth and eased property taxes.
“Where J.B. Pritzker has failed in Illinois, I have succeeded in Aurora…,” Irvin said. “As the next governor of Illinois, I will be tough on criminals, put our state on a sound fiscal path that doesn’t rely on tax hikes and fight the corrupt politicians who have run our state for decades.”
If elected, Irvin would be the first Black governor of Illinois. But he’s certain to face bruising attacks during the primary campaign because he has pulled Democratic ballots in recent elections. And Monday morning, the Democratic Governors’ Association released a video showing Irvin praising Pritzker’s “professionalism and compassion” in shepherding the state through the COVID-19 pandemic, a record which establishment Republicans have roundly criticized.
The partisan primary, typically scheduled for March, is June 28 because pandemic-related 2020 Census delays stalled the Legislature’s once-a-decade redrawing of legislative and congressional district maps.
The crowded GOP field already features state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia, Bull Valley businessman Gary Rabine, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo and equity investor Jesse Sullivan of Petersburg.
The Democratic Party of Illinois wasted no time in landing shots, tying the latest hopeful to a statewide conservative lineup it says has been organized by associates of former GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner, whom Pritzker beat in 2018, and funded by conservative billionaire donor Ken Griffin.
“Voters will not tolerate a slate of candidates whose only goal is to return us to the Rauner years of budget impasses, credit downgrades, draconian service cuts, and governmental crisis,” Democratic Party Executive Director Abby Witt said.
With Rauner absent from the political scene for three years, Democrats have been unfettered in tagging him with blame for a disastrous two-year budget stalemate between the ex-governor and the former Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Irvin didn’t mention Rauner or Griffin. Griffin, CEO of Citadel, a multinational hedge fund, has not commented on speculation about his plans.
But the state’s richest man, with an estimated worth of $26 billion, according to Forbes, has promised he’s “all in” to beat Pritzker and issued a statement praising Irvin’s honesty and progress in improving public safety, education and the economy.
“Richard Irvin’s life embodies the American Dream and a real commitment to making communities stronger,” Griffin said. “From humble beginnings, he put himself through college with the help of the GI bill and chose to enter public service to make a difference in the lives of others.”
Expect billionaire philanthropist and equity investor Pritzker to match his opponent dollar for dollar. With $24 million in the bank on Dec. 31, the heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, worth $3.6 billion according to Forbes, last week dropped another $90 million into his account.
At $210 million, the Pritzker-Rauner race four years ago was the second-costliest gubernatorial campaign in history, with nearly 90% of the total put up by just three people: Pritzker, Rauner and Griffin.