GOP gubernatorial debates: Irvin more elusive than lesser known rivals Schimpf and Solomon
During a rapid-fire “yes or no,” segment, Max Solomon and Paul Schimpf agreed that the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 were not an “insurrection.” But Richard Irvin touted his credentials as a lawyer and said, “I don’t think it’s a ‘yes or no’ question.”
Three of the state’s Republican primary candidates for governor tried to show just how conservative they were on hot-button topics such as sanctuary cities, January 6 and school curriculums Tuesday evening in the first of two competing televised debates in Chicago.
But presumed front-runner Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin was often more hesitant to be pinned down than lesser known primary rivals Hazel Crest lawyer Max Solomon and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf.
During a rapid-fire “yes or no,” segment, Solomon and Schimpf agreed that the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 were not an “insurrection.”
But Irvin touted his credentials as a lawyer and said, “I don’t think it’s a ‘yes or no’ question.”
On whether they support the Black Lives Matter movement, Solomon and Schimpf both said no. Irvin, pressed for a yes or no answer, replied, “I believe that Black people’s lives matter, just like all lives matter.”
As a Black man, the Aurora mayor has taken some heat from Democratic critics in voicing his support for “all lives matter” in a campaign ad and in public. Schimpf said he doesn’t agree with the “methods and goals of that organization.”
Throughout the campaign, Irvin has dodged questions about whether he voted for former President Donald Trump for fear of alienating GOP voters who supported Trump in 2020 — and the many undecided voters in the primary race.
And Tuesday was no different.
“I’m a Republican and in general elections, I vote for Republicans,” Irvin said. “But that’s exactly what J.B. Pritzker wants to be talking about.”
“Who did you vote for?” the moderator, NBC 5 political reporter Mary Ann Ahern, asked.
“That’s exactly what J.B. Pritzker wants,” Irvin answered.
Ahern countered, “I don’t think so. I think the voters want to know, especially Republicans.”
“As I travel around the state, let me tell you what the voters around the state want to talk about,” Irvin said. “The fact that under J.B. Pritzker, crime is out of control.”
Ahern tried again, “So if you vote for a Republican, why did you vote for Trump?”
“As I said, as I drive around the state,” Irvin continued, prompting Ahern to interject, “I guess you didn’t.”
And despite Irvin in 2019 voicing support for Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s fight against planned raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Irvin said Illinois would not be a sanctuary state if he is elected.
“If our borders were secured, we wouldn’t be dealing with these issues,” Irvin said.” But I can tell you as mayor of Aurora, Aurora is not a sanctuary city, and as governor, Illinois will not be a sanctuary state.”
Later, talking with reporters after the forum, Irvin was asked about his 2019 resistance against the planned Trump raids.
“When the state gives sanctuary to someone, even those violent criminals, that would harm our community,” Irvin said. “In our case, we just got recently lauded by the U.S. Attorney’s office for assisting ICE in those situations where we have violent communities, where we want to be more safe.”
Asked during the debate whether he favored eliminating the gas tax, Irvin said he would support getting rid of a portion that goes toward general funds, but not to the portion that goes toward road improvements. Schimpf called it a “predatory practice” to charge a sales tax on motor fuel, and said it should be removed.
Regarding school curriculums, Schimpf said local school boards should control them. Solomon answered that parents should be in control, and Irvin said parents and the local school board should be tasked with curriculums.
Irvin, Solomon and Schimpf also said sex education should not be taught to primary school students.
Solomon, who appeared to be the candidate with the most far right stances in the group, was asked about how he is getting his message across with only $2,000 in campaign funds and nearly $60,000 in campaign debt.
“I believe that everyone, regardless of how rich or poor you are, if you have a voice, and you have a way that you can solve, or participation or a contribution to the problem, money should not be a barrier,” Solomon said.
Schimpf was also asked how he believes he can win, after having lost by more than 20 percentage points in a 2014 statewide bid for attorney general.
“I did not receive a dime of assistance from the Illinois Republican Party, and we only raised and spent $171,000, but even with that limited amount of resources, we still flipped an incredible amount of counties,” the former state senator from Waterloo said.
“We’ve raised much more money than we had in that attorney general race. And people in Illinois right now are ready for somebody that is not beholden to the insiders.”
The hourlong forum was sponsored by NBC 5, Telemundo, Chicago Urban League, the Latino Policy Forum and the Union League Club of Chicago.