Debates, dinners and door-knocking: Four other Republicans seek to make it clear they’re in the race for governor, too

Venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, Hazel Crest attorney Max Solomon and businessman Gary Rabine are working to get their final messages to undecided voters. All four proudly say they voted for former president Donald Trump, are anti-abortion and pro-Second Amendment rights.

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Republican candidates for governor, clockwise from top left: Max Solomon, Jesse Sullivan, Gary Rabine and Paul Schimpf.

Republican candidates for governor, clockwise from top left: Max Solomon, Jesse Sullivan, Gary Rabine and Paul Schimpf.

Anthony Vazquez; Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times-file

Polls and blistering campaign ads aside, six Republicans — not just two — are fighting for votes in what has become an expensive, dramatic and surprisingly fluid GOP primary contest to ultimately face Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker in November.

With the focus mostly on state Sen. Darren Bailey and Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, the other four — venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, Hazel Crest attorney Max Solomon and businessman Gary Rabine — are working to get their messages to undecided voters in the final days ahead of the June 28 primary.

All four proudly say they voted for former president Donald Trump, are anti-abortion and pro-Second Amendment rights — and they’ve made attacks on Pritzker a focal point of their campaigns.

Sullivan, who began running his first statewide television ads in October, is planning home- stretch June rallies around the state, including in Lake Forest, Peoria, Champaign and Bloomington. Sullivan also plans to participate in a radio debate on June 23, various local party and community events, as well as a Lincoln Day Dinner, according to his campaign.

A Chicago Sun-Times/WBEZ earlier this month confirmed Bailey and Irvin as the GOP frontrunners — but it was also the first to show that Bailey had moved into the lead — after a heated war of TV ads and mailers between the downstate farmer and Aurora mayor.

Republican candidates for governor, left to right: Max Solomon, Paul Schimpf, Gary Rabine and Jesse Sullivan.

Republican candidates for governor, left to right: Max Solomon, Paul Schimpf, Gary Rabine on June 2, and Jesse Sullivan on May 24.

Anthony Vazquez; Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times-file

Bailey was leading the pack with 32% to Irvin’s 17%. Sullivan finished third with 11%. The other three each had single-digit support in the survey of 677 GOP voters conducted June 6 and 7.

But the poll also found Sullivan, of Petersburg in central Illinois, leading in Chicago with 26%, followed by Irvin at 16% and Bailey at 13%.

His campaign said that was no surprise.

“Jesse is the conservative who can win downstate, in the suburbs and in Chicago to build a coalition of Reagan Democrats, Trump Independents and next-generation conservatives,” spokesman Andrew Welhouse said. “Jesse Sullivan is the candidate who will unite our state and defeat JB Pritzker.”

Sullivan kicked off his campaign back in September, with an early boost of $10 million in campaign contributions from seven out-of-town supporters. He calls himself the “pro-life,” pro-freedom, pro-Second Amendment “conservative outsider” who wants to end an era of high taxes, corruption and crime in the state.

Thanks to his relatively robust war chest, Sullivan has also been able to air TV ads, trying to highlight his conservative credentials. One features him and his wife in a church pew, as he extolls, “I will always fight for life.”

In another, featuring his children making fun of an avalanche of political ads, mailers and emails, one of his daughters says, “Get to know our dad. He’s a really good guy. Trust us. We’ve known him for our whole lives.”

Jesse Sullivan and his wife Monique and their five children in a video his gubernatorial campaign released.

Jesse Sullivan and his wife Monique and their five children in a video his gubernatorial campaign released last year.

Sullivan campaign

After the leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion that could signal the overturn of Roe v. Wade was released, Sullivan said, “Prayer works, and my prayer tonight is gratitude.”

At his first debate, Sullivan vowed to call in the National Guard to help stem Chicago crime, and he claimed he’ll lead an effort to recall Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, despite there being no process in Illinois to do so.

Without flush campaign funds, the other three have had to rely on other methods to push their candidacies.

Rabine, owner of Rabine Paving in the far northwest suburbs, touts the support of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who endorsed Rabine in March. Rabine’s campaign quotes Flynn as saying, “Gary does not just talk conservative, he takes action,” including suing President Joe Biden’s administration over a vaccine mandate for federal employers.

Republican candidate for governor Gary Rabine, left; Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, right.

Republican candidate for governor Gary Rabine, left; Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, right.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file; Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP file

“Gary’s contributions to the conservative movement are unequaled by any other candidate this election cycle,” Flynn said in a statement at the time.

Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his conversations with a Russian diplomat during the 2016 presidential campaign, but the retired general remains popular with many rank-and-file GOP voters — especially after Trump granted him a full pardon as Republican president’s administration came to a close.

Rabine, of Bull Valley, suffered the loss of his wife Cheryl in 2020, after four years of a battle with brain cancer. He credits Trump with the “Right to Try” law — which allows some patients with life-threatening diseases to access certain unapproved treatments — for being able to travel the world to try to extend his wife’s life. The two have four children, including an adopted son from Russia.

Rabine injected some humor into a June 2 televised debate with all six candidates with an encapsulation of the heated race.

A WGN studio staff members adjusts Bull Valley businessman Gary Rabine’s mic before a GOP gubernatorial primary debate at WGN’s studios last month.

A WGN studio staff members adjusts Bull Valley businessman Gary Rabine’s mic before a GOP gubernatorial primary debate at WGN’s studios last month.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

“If you want a farmer to lead the state, Darren’s your guy. If this is a beauty contest … Jesse wins by a landslide. If you want a Democrat to lead the Republican Party, Richard is your guy,” he said.

“It’s time we elect a governor who has turned around businesses and understands what it’s like to turn things around,” Rabine said.

Schimpf, a former military lawyer and ex-state senator, is riding on the high of a May 31 endorsement from the Chicago Tribune. Schimpf says he will be the “commonsense leader” to help fix Illinois and will oppose mandates and stand up to corruption.

Republican candidates for governor, from left, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin and attorney Max Solomon at the NBC 5 Telemundo Chicago Forum in May.

Republican candidates for governor, from left, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin and attorney Max Solomon at the NBC 5 Telemundo Chicago Forum in May.

MAX.PRO.PHOTOGRAPHY

In an interview with Peoria-based television station WMBD this week, Schimpf brushed off his low poll numbers, saying the 2020 election proved polls can be unreliable. The Sun-Times/WBEZ poll had Schimpf at 4%. He said the endorsement has helped him build momentum in the final stretch of his campaign.

Solomon, an attorney, has pitched himself as the most far right candidate on everything from banning sex education in K-12 schools to ensuring all schools be staffed with armed guards.

Despite having less than $2,000 in his campaign fund in late April, Solomon’s campaign said it will air two television ads statewide ahead of the June 28 primary. The campaign said it also plans to do door-to-door campaigning in Chicago.

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