Editorial: Our recommendations for governor in Republican, Democratic primaries
Republican voters in Illinois have two important considerations when choosing a nomination for governor on June 28. One is which candidate has the best chance to successfully lead Illinois, heading a General Assembly that is likely to remain in Democratic hands even if it loses its current veto-proof majorities in November. The other is which candidate has the best chance this fall to beat J.B. Pritzker.
Among the six candidates vying for the opportunity to face Pritzker, who seems impervious to a primary challenge from a little-known Chicago activist on the Democratic ticket, only one checks both of those boxes, Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin.
We have followed Irvin's leadership in Aurora, of course, so we know him to be a more moderate and collaborative political leader than the tough-talking contrarian he portrays in his speeches and television ads fashioned for a conservative primary-voting audience. To win in November, the Republican candidate will have to be able to attract moderate voters who may have misgivings about the direction of the state but remember only too well the frustrations of the intransigent Rauner administration. Irvin has that potential.
Aside from political considerations, Irvin has a solid record of leadership to offer. If indeed he is a conservative Republican, he has worked effectively with the diverse voices on Aurora's City Council to advance the revival of the city's downtown, produce balanced budgets and respond to crises such as the destructive protests following the death of George Floyd. To be successful in Illinois today, a Republican governor needs to have the capacity to work successfully with a wide range of personalities and points of view. Irvin has shown he can do that.
And he's done his homework. During an editorial board meeting with the candidates, it did not escape our notice that when a question came up regarding infrastructure needs in the state, Irvin showed as much awareness of downstate needs, if not more, as candidates who hail from the region. He is well-versed on all issues confronting the state and articulates his positions thoroughly and forcefully.
Not that he is the lone voice for cohesion and perception among the GOP field. We are impressed with the tone and insights we've witnessed from financial manager Jesse Sullivan, of Petersburg, attorney and ex-Marine Paul Schimpf, of Waterloo, and attorney and minister Max Solomon, of Chicago. But none of them shows the promise Irvin does to successfully lead an adversarial General Assembly, nor do they offer much hope of mounting a successful campaign against Pritzker.
Two additional candidates round out the primary field, Gary Rabine, a highly successful owner of multiple businesses from McHenry, and state Sen. Darren Bailey, a farmer from downstate Xenia whose career in the legislature was most noted for his expulsion from the House floor when, then a state representative, he refused to abide by rules at the height of the pandemic requiring all members to wear face masks.
Be aware: We are not indifferent to the optics or the complications posed by Irvin's well-publicized, well-financed backing by Illinois' richest person, hedge fund manager Ken Griffin. Irvin still has far to go to prove that he is indeed his own person, willing to lead according to the dictates of his own conscience and insights and not those of a well-heeled financial backer.
But we hope he gets more opportunity in a broader campaign to show his full personal political profile.
He gets our endorsement for the Republican primary for Illinois governor.
For better or worse, Democrats have a record to defend for the governor's seat in the November general election, and the person who should be defending it is the person responsible for it, Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Pritzker has a legitimately impressive story to tell. Under his watch, the state has consistently managed a balanced budget, made bigger payments than required toward its crushing pension debt, experienced two credit upgrades, passed significant climate legislation and undertaken a major infrastructure program.
Whether the credit for these accomplishments is due to the policies of the Pritzker administration or the windfall of COVID-19 relief money from the federal government will no doubt be a central theme of the fall campaign. And Democrats will also face hard questions over tax increases, the governor's handling of pandemic mandates and an ambitious progressive social issues agenda. There is no more appropriate candidate to respond to such questions than the governor who oversaw the actions.
Pritzker faces a challenge for that opportunity from within his party. Registered nurse and social activist Beverly Miles is mounting a mostly quiet campaign citing her 15-year military service, health care background, organizing work in her West Side Chicago neighborhood and additional focus on education and violence prevention. She is not particularly critical of the incumbent, telling the Chicago Sun-Times last summer she believes Pritzker has "done a phenomenal job."
Miles is obviously a well-meaning candidate, but with only a failed attempt for alderman as political experience to back her up, she really doesn't have the background or stature to challenge Pritzker's record.
Pritzker is endorsed for the Democratic primary.