GOP governor candidates see ‘hope for Illinois’ in expected reversal of Roe v. Wade

Most of the state’s Republican candidates for governor offered exuberant praise for the anticipated decision upending abortion protections — but the GOP establishment pick declined to weigh in on the political tripwire.

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State Sen. Darren Bailey, Republican candidate for governor, speaks during a news conference Tuesday about the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that may overturn Roe v. Wade.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, Republican candidate for governor, speaks during a news conference Tuesday about the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that may overturn Roe v. Wade.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Most of Illinois’ Republican candidates for governor on Tuesday applauded the seemingly inevitable upending of federally protected abortion rights — though the silence of the state GOP’s establishment pick underscored the challenge in trying to court conservative voters in the primary and more moderate ones in November.

A leaked draft of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision — suggesting the Roe v. Wade decision will be overturned this year — was met with full-throated support by those farther to the right on the spectrum of the state’s GOP gubernatorial hopefuls.

“The flag looks different after this ruling — it shines even brighter,” Petersburg venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan said in a statement, calling the primary “a matter of life and death” with the state destined to “be the abortion destination capital of the Midwest.”

“We must, as a state and a country, do all we can to protect the rights of the unborn,” Bull Valley entrepreneur Gary Rabine said.

Republican venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, left, in October; Suburban businessman Gary Rabine, right, last year.

Republican venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, left, in October; Suburban businessman Gary Rabine, right, last year.

Mitchell Armentrout; Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

“I absolutely love this — hope for Chicago, hope for Illinois and hope for this great nation,” state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, said at a news conference in the city alongside local anti-abortion activists.

But Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin — who has the backing of Illinois’ richest man, Ken Griffin — declined to comment through his campaign, saying he wouldn’t weigh in until a final ruling is issued. Earlier this year, Irvin told FOX 32 Chicago he was “pro-life,” with the caveat that “there are always exceptions: rape, incest, life of the mother.”

Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R- Waterloo, didn’t issue a statement about the leaked decision, but has previously said in media interviews and campaign statements that he’s staunchly anti-abortion.

The range of reactions, and lack thereof, played out as anti-abortion activists across the state celebrated the looming decision that promises to block a woman’s right to opt out of a pregnancy in more than half the country — and they suggested that the idea of chipping away at abortion rights in solidly blue Illinois might not be as far-fetched as it seems.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, left, in 2019; Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, right.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, left, in 2019; Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, right.

Patrick Kunzer/Daily Herald-file; Facebook

Ralph Rivera, lobbyist for Illinois Right to Life Action, cited a bill signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker last year repealing the requirement for parental notification in the cases of minors who get abortions — a measure that passed the Illinois House with only two votes to spare.

“We’ve seen very close votes on this, so we’re not that far away. I think it’s doable,” Rivera said at the anti-abortion news conference held at the Hilton Garden Inn in the South Loop.

“We’re hopeful that we can see more people who want to come up with, at least, these common-sense things of parental notice, not paying for taxpayer-funded abortion, and putting in certain safeguards for the mother and child.”

Bailey, who is endorsed by key Illinois anti-abortion groups, acknowledged the slim odds of moving any restrictive legislation through Springfield, saying he understands “what we can and cannot accomplish with the Democrats currently holding the supermajority.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey listens during a news conference Tuesday on the draft opinion that may would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey listens during a news conference Tuesday on the draft opinion that may would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

“But I will always stand up to promote policies that support women and protect life,” he said.

The downstate senator, backed by far-right businessman Richard Uihlein, has tried to position himself as the true conservative pick in the primary, even meeting with former President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in an effort to court his endorsement.

Irvin, widely viewed as the state party favorite, has played the exact opposite strategy, tiptoeing around reporters’ questions about the former president — who remains wildly popular in much of the central and southern regions of the state, but who is thought to turn off some key suburban voters.

But even as he avoids the Trump topic himself, Irvin has worked hard to portray Bailey as the one who is out of sync with the former president, hoping to blunt a key segment of the state senator’s potential base of support.

Still, it’s Irvin’s reluctance to take stances on such conservative hot buttons that has drawn fire from his GOP rivals.

“Pro choice Fake Republican candidate Richard Irvin really in a bad place today,” Rabine tweeted. “Pro choice in a party that’s overwhelmingly pro life makes it tough for a guy that wants to be the GOP Governor nominee.”

Contributing: Tina Sfondeles

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