Bailey’s GOP bid for governor picks up support from anti-abortion leaders — and big bucks from Republican mega donor

The endorsements from Illinois Family Action, Illinois Federation for Right to Life and Illinois Citizens for Life come a day after Bailey reported a $2.5 million campaign contribution from Dick Uihlein, bringing the total the Lake Forest businessman has donated to $3,525,000.

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State Sen. Darren Bailey, left, announces endorsements for his campaign for governor from key anti-abortion leaders on Thursday.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, left, announces endorsements for his campaign for governor from key anti-abortion leaders at Trump Tower Chicago on Thursday. Standing with him are his wife, Cindy Bailey, center, and Ralph Rivera, right, chairman of Illinois Citizens for Life.

Tina Sfondeles/Chicago Sun-Times

Vowing to repeal key abortion rights protections in Illinois solely by communicating the “ideals of hope,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey on Thursday touted the endorsements of three leading anti-abortion groups — further solidifying his conservative support in a heated primary race.

The endorsements from Illinois Family Action, Illinois Federation for Right to Life and Illinois Citizens for Life come a day after the downstate state senator reported a $2.5 million campaign contribution from Lake Forest GOP megadonor Dick Uihlein, who also contributed $1 million to Bailey’s campaign in February and another $25,000 last week.

That all is essentially making the financial end of the primary Uihlein versus billionaire Ken Griffin, who so far is bankrolling Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin’s GOP bid for governor to the tune of $20 million, with more expected to roll in ahead of the June 28 primary.

Uihlein, a leading GOP donor here and nationally, in 2018 also gave $2.5 million to former state Rep. Jeanne Ives, another anti-abortion candidate, who nearly upset then Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in that year’s GOP primary. Ives endorsed Bailey last month.

Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, left; Lake Forest GOP megadonor Dick Uihlein, right.

Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, left; Lake Forest GOP megadonor Dick Uihlein, right.

Sun-Times file photos.

Given conservative voters’ increasing dominance in Republican primaries in Illinois, Bailey is underscoring his claim to their support on key issues.

In a TV ad, Bailey called himself the most conservative candidate in the race, a knock at Irvin, who is not spotlighting his position on abortion — and avoiding saying whether he supports former President Donald Trump.

“I have opponents in a primary who won’t say where they stand on these important issues,” Bailey said Thursday at a news conference at Trump Tower in Chicago to announce the endorsements of the anti-abortion groups.

In a FOX-32 interview in February, Irvin said he was “pro-life” but said, “you know, there are always exceptions: rape, incest, life of the mother.”

When pressed by political editor Mike Flannery about whether he would allow abortion in circumstances such as rape, incest or life of the mother, Irvin paused and glanced at a campaign aide across from him. When Flannery asked the question again, Irvin responded, “think we’re done.”

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin holds a media briefing last year.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin holds a media briefing last year.

Rick West/Daily Herald via AP file

After the exchange drew media attention, Irvin’s campaign officials told Politico they had tried to end the interview a few times to give other reporters equal time — and argued that Irvin had already answered the questions.

At his news conference, Bailey was asked whether he would allow abortions to save the life of the mother.

“I think the mother’s life is always important. You know I don’t personally consider that abortion,” Bailey said. “Many times, there’s a medical procedure that has to take place and there’s a choice of life. So, in those instances, I would always obviously lean towards the life of the mother.”

State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, speaks at a news conference at Trump Tower Chicago on Thursday.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, speaks at a news conference at Trump Tower Chicago on Thursday. Standing with him are his wife, Cindy Bailey, center, and Ralph Rivera, right, chairman of Illinois Citizens for Life.

Tina Sfondeles/Chicago Sun-Times

Bailey was less clear how he proposed to outlaw abortion in a state in which Democrats hold supermajorities in both the Illinois House and Senate.

“With communication to the people,” Bailey said. “After all, we are in this position because I’ve been expelling truth, hope, the possibility of restoring them on the way. That’s what’s got us here.

“So, actually standing up and not threatening people but letting them know the ideals of hope, the possibilities of the policy that we can bring together and how we can ultimately work together for actually what everyone’s fighting for, which is women’s health. We can do that without threatening life.”

Fellow GOP candidates Jesse Sullivan, Gary Rabine and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo have all said they are staunchly anti-abortion in media interviews and in campaign statements.

Republican candidates for governor Gary Rabine, Paul Schimpf and Jesse Sullivan.

Republican candidates for governor Gary Rabine, left; Paul Schimpf, center; and Jesse Sullivan, right.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file; Facebook; Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times file

Bailey also vowed to “restore parental rights” and end taxpayer funded abortions in Illinois.

In 2017, Rauner signed into law a bill that allowed public funding for abortions and was aimed at protecting women’s right to choose if Roe v. Wade is reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court. In December, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law that stopped Illinois minors from being required to give parental notification before having an abortion.

The state had required parental or guardian notification for individuals 17 and younger since 1995, meaning they had to notify, but not get consent, from parents before having an abortion. Court fights kept that requirement from taking effect until 2013, and there were some ways around it, such as a minor’s ability to notify a judge of their decision.

“When Pritzker signed his anti-parent and anti-child legislation to remove parental notification, he enabled sexual predators and human traffickers that parental notification has been proven to deter,” Bailey said.

“When elected as Illinois’ next governor, I will continue working to repeal this egregious overstep of government,” Bailey said. “I will work to restore parental rights, to end taxpayer-funded abortions once and for all and work for policies that actually give women real options during and after pregnancy and then also protect our children and life in general.”

The last anti-abortion governor of Illinois was Republican George Ryan, but even Ryan in 2000 vetoed legislation that would have limited public funding of abortions in Illinois.

Illinois GOP candidates are typically peppered with questions about abortions on the campaign trail, but with a Democratic supermajority in the Illinois General Assembly, any major changes to abortion rights laws in the state would be difficult. The issue has become somewhat symbolic — and reflective of a voter’s personal beliefs more than what a politician can actually do about it.

Asked by the Sun-Times whether Illinois wants an anti-abortion governor, Bailey said that voters want to see a change.

“Illinois is hurting. Life is being threatened,” Bailey said. “Yes, I believe that people in Illinois want a change. They want someone to stand up that has common sense values for everyone. So, yes, I do.”

Pritzker’s campaign disagreed.

“Darren Bailey continues to prove he is far too conservative to lead our state. His long record of attacking reproductive freedoms and women’s bodily autonomy poses an existential threat to families in every corner of Illinois,” said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Natalie Edelstein.

“As GOP extremists try to drag us backwards Governor Pritzker is focused on protecting a woman’s right to choose, bolstering access to vital health care, and ensuring Illinois remains a safe haven for women everywhere.”

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