Republican governor candidates gathered in Belleville. Here are the promises they made.

·6 min read
Kelsey Landis/klandis@bnd.com

Five Republican candidates for Illinois governor hoping to unseat incumbent Democrat J.B. Pritzker aired their views, policy goals and beliefs at a forum in Belleville Saturday.

Darren Bailey, Gary Rabine, Paul Schimpf, Max Solomon and Jesse Sullivan shared standard GOP positions on the Second Amendment, abortion, taxes, the state’s response to COVID-19 and education, but what set them apart was the promises they vowed to keep if they were elected governor.

The only GOP candidate who didn’t appear for the forum, hosted by the St. Clair County Republican Party, was Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. He has mostly avoided the press and debates but has the backing of Republican megadonor Kenneth Griffin, a Chicago hedge fund manager who has donated $45 million to Irvin’s campaign.

Conservative St. Louis-based radio host Annie Frey moderated, and near the end of the forum, asked candidates about controversies that have cropped up in their campaigns.

Frey asked Bailey, a 56-year-old farmer and state senator from Xenia, about accusations he supported former President Barack Obama. Bailey said he participated in an effort by deceased conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh calling on Republicans to cast Democratic ballots in the 2008 presidential primary. “Operation Chaos” suggested GOP voters cast ballots for Hillary Clinton in an effort to divide the Democratic party.

While he participated in the effort, Bailey said he “never supported a Democrat for office and I never will.” Primary voters must choose which party’s ballot they want to pull. Which party they choose is public, though votes cast on the ballot are private in Illinois.

Sullivan, a 37-year-old venture capitalist from the central Illinois town of Petersburg, was asked about campaign contributions coming from out-of-state groups that have also donated to Democrats. Sullivan said those donors also contributed to Republican candidates.

Frey asked Rabine, a 58-year-old businessman from the affluent northern Illinois village Bull Valley, about unpaid tax liens. In March, WCIA reported that Rabine owed more than $10,200 in delinquent state taxes from a company he dissolved in 2019. Rabine told WCIA he attempted to contact the state.

“Illinois never got back to us with that tax lien,” Rabine said at the forum.

Schimpf, a 51-year-old former state senator and a Marine veteran, responded to a question about “overcoming the fundraising advantage of the other Republican governor candidates.” He said he will rely on “grassroots” efforts to mobilize people ahead of the June 28 primary.

“Most people have not made their minds up,” Schimpf said.

Soloman, a private practice attorney from Chicago, said just because he’s from the state’s largest city doesn’t mean he wouldn’t know how to represent southern Illinois.

“We can make Cook County red again,” Solomon said.

The candidates made the same promises on a number of goals:

  • Reverse a criminal justice reform law passed in 2021; support law enforcement.

  • Make abortions more difficult to obtain in Illinois or make them illegal; reinstate a law requiring minors to notify their parents before having an abortion.

  • Eliminate the requirement for a firearm owners identification card, or FOID card, to own a gun.

  • Freeze and reduce property and gas taxes to attract residents to Illinois.

  • Reduce regulations and taxes on businesses,

Here are other promises the candidates made at the forum.

Darren Bailey

  • Hand out “pink slips” on his first day in office, replacing state agency heads.

  • Govern from Springfield, not Chicago.

  • “Make abortion unnecessary” by partnering with civic organizations and churches to “respect and support life.”

  • Work to implement term limits.

  • Asked about COVID-19 mandates, Bailey said he believes the role of government is to educate, inform and provide, but should leave it up to “we the people to decide how we’re going to live.”

Gary Rabine

  • Rid Illinois of its “sanctuary state status” — Illinois expanded protections for immigrants and refugees in recent years, establishing itself as a welcoming “sanctuary” state.

  • Lower taxes on businesses to attract more companies and residents to the state, eventually expanding the tax base. Rabine said previously Illinois would have to “tighten the belt” to achieve that goal, but didn’t specify what services or costs he would cut to make up for lost revenue.

  • Remove sex education books from school libraries he believes amount to “child pornography.”

  • Support funding for court appointed special advocates, or CASA — a program that provides volunteers who advocate for abused and neglected children in the child welfare system.

Paul Schimpf

  • Promised not to run for reelection if he does not “significantly lower crime in Illinois.”

  • Work for a “parents bill of rights” that would require curriculum transparency. The candidate has said parents wouldn’t have “veto power” over school curricula, but that his plan would give parents and local school boards more control.

  • Manage property tax hikes by requiring all increases to be approved with a vote. That means property taxes would only go up if a community approved a property tax increase through a ballot referendum.

  • Schimpf promised to be a “pro-life” governor, but also said he would “run on the issues that are going to unify” Republican and “crossover” centrist voters.

Max Solomon

  • “Comprehensive sex ed” would be “gone” in Illinois under Solomon. Comprehensive sexual education includes curricula covering sexually transmitted infections, contraception and pregnancy.

  • Restrict access to school bathrooms based on biological sex.

  • Push to disallow changing a person’s sex on their birth certificates.

  • Provide state funding for private or alternative schools, also known as “school choice.”

  • Fix pensions through “constitutional pension reform.” Solomon didn’t provide details about his plan.

  • Bring “God back into politics.”

  • Remove all taxes on firearms and ammunition and rid the state of any database tracking gun owners.

  • Work to implement term limits.

  • As a way to prevent home loss from failure to pay property taxes, a home would “never be subject to forfeiture” after 30 years of full mortgage payments.

Jesse Sullivan

  • Reverse a sex education law that orders the Illinois State Board of Education to update school curricula with information about gender identity and sexual orientation, among other topics. Parents already have the option to opt their children out of that learning under the law.

  • Like Solomon, Sullivan supports school choice.

  • Replace members of the Illinois State Board of Education.

  • Sullivan believes the election is not “just a partisan battle” between Democrats and Republicans, but a “battle around our core values, a spiritual battle.” He believes Republicans are losing because “everyone buys into this idea of the separation of church and state.” Sullivan said he believes “faith values can insert themselves into government and they’re supposed to, and God belongs at the center of our politics.”

  • Advocate for “local control” if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens again.

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