Downstate conservative running for governor

  • Paul Schimpf

    Paul Schimpf

  • Paul Schimpf kicked off his campaign for the Republican nomination for governor at the Holiday Inn Express in Algonquin on Monday.

    Paul Schimpf kicked off his campaign for the Republican nomination for governor at the Holiday Inn Express in Algonquin on Monday. Katie Smith/Shaw Media

Updated 2/15/2021 6:33 PM

Saying he wants to return Illinois to its status as the strongest state in the nation, a former southern Illinois legislator on Monday became the second Republican to announce a run for governor.

Paul Schimpf, 50, a conservative from Waterloo, Illinois, was state senator from 2016 to 2020 but did not seek reelection. He is better known as the unsuccessful GOP candidate for attorney general in 2014, where he lost to Lisa Madigan.


"My vision for Illinois involves a return to responsible government, safe communities and economic growth in a free market," he said Monday in a virtual news conference from the Algonquin Holiday Inn Express. "We need a governor who welcomes and insists upon legislative oversight of his administration."

Schimpf then embarked on a two-day news conference tour around Illinois, where he will visit Rock Island, Morris, Decatur and Mount Vernon, before ending Tuesday at the Monroe County courthouse in Waterloo.

Bull Valley resident and Northwest suburban businessman Gary Rabine has also announced a run for the Republican nomination for governor. Other Republicans mentioned as possible candidates include U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, state Rep. Darren Bailey of Xenia and Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts, the Republican National Committee finance chairman.

Schimpf made no mention of his potential primary rivals in the news conference, but focused on criticizing Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who is unpopular in southern Illinois.

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Concerning the pandemic, Schimpf said as governor he would have involved the legislature more than Pritzker has, and not issued so many executive orders.

"I would not have tried to go it alone," he declared, adding that local experts, not state bureaucrats, are in the best position to recognize the safety needs of local families.

Schimpf acknowledged he did not have the financial support in 2014 to make a successful run at attorney general.

Without divulging numbers, he said his position for the gubernatorial run is much stronger.

"If I didn't have the resources, I wouldn't have launched this campaign," he said.

Schimpf was a U.S. Marine Corps officer for 24 years until he retired in 2013. A lawyer, in 2005 he went to Iraq to be the chief American adviser to prosecutors in the Saddam Hussein trial.


Kristina Zahorik, president of the Illinois Democratic County Chairs Association, on Monday called Schimpf "Rauner 2.0" and "a wolf in sheep's clothing."

"Paul Schimpf has built a facade of being pro-labor and moderate," Zahorik said in a statement. "When given the opportunity to prove that during his short time in the Illinois Senate, he opposed key labor issues like supporting increasing the minimum wage. He also consistently voted to extend the Rauner budget crisis that crippled our state."

• CNI reporter Jerry Nowicki contributed to this report.

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