Irvin attacks Pritzker over handling of fatal COVID-19 outbreak at veterans home

GOP gubernatorial candidate and Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin was pugnacious about Gov. J.B. Pritzker's handling of a fatal COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans Home but evaded sharing an opinion on another politician - Donald Trump - at a media event Monday.

As a veteran, "I am sickened by the fact that J.B. Pritzker and his administration stood idly by instead of springing into action to save the lives of those who served our country," Irvin said.

State Auditor General Frank Mautino released a report Thursday on a COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans Home in late 2020 that resulted in the deaths of 36 residents. The Illinois Department of Public Health "did not identify and respond to the seriousness of the outbreak," Mautino found.

At Irvin's first news conference in months, he was asked whether he voted for Trump or would support him.

"That's exactly what J.B. Pritzker wants all of you to be talking about," Irvin said. "He wants you to be talking about anything other than his failures and his record. We're here today to talk about 36 veterans."

The mayor also declined to comment about the U.S. Supreme Court's expected decision to overturn Roe v. Wade after a draft opinion was leaked.

"Until we get the final document from the Supreme Court, I think it's irresponsible to hypothesize and speculate on what the outcome will be," Irvin said.

Irvin said he is pro-life but agrees with an abortion to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.

Irvin is running in the June 28 GOP primary along with state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia, McHenry County businessman Gary Rabine, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo, Max Solomon of Hazel Crest and venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan from rural Petersburg.

Irvin took a swipe at Sullivan, accusing the Republican of saying he served "in uniform," which implies being in the U.S. Armed Forces.

"I'm offended that somebody would pretend that they served our country," said Irvin,

Sullivan's campaign responded that the candidate was an Army civilian, deployed by the Department of Defense to Afghanistan, who had worked in dangerous locations.

The winner will take on Pritzker, a Chicago Democrat, in the Nov. 8 general election.

Responding to the auditor general's report last week, Pritzker said "we were working against Republican elected officials who told people to defy mitigation efforts" at LaSalle.

"Republicans told them that they did not need to wear masks. They told people that they didn't need to get vaccinated. They told people that COVID wasn't serious. Those lies put people's lives at risk, especially the most vulnerable."

Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Natalie Edelstein said that "Illinois families deserve a leader who can run on their record, not one who is desperate to talk about anything else."

• Daily Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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