Suburban politicians hope to be at the top of the ticket on statewide ballot
Suburban Republicans are taking starring roles in what's shaping up to be a bruising and boisterous primary election for a standard-bearer to challenge Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
For starters, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin is expected to announce his candidacy for governor in the coming days.
Palatine Township Highway Commissioner Aaron Del Mar is running as lieutenant governor with Gary Rabine of McHenry County, a Schaumburg business owner who is seeking to be the next governor.
And, McHenry County Board Vice Chairwoman Carolyn Schofield will team with gubernatorial hopeful and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Monroe County as a candidate for lieutenant governor.
Irvin, a former prosecutor and attorney who served in the Army in the Middle East, did not respond to requests to comment.
But his neighbor, Mayor Steve Chirico of Naperville, thinks "Mayor Irvin will certainly make a great candidate. He has done good work and his legal and military background are a great asset. I look forward to having a candidate for governor from the suburbs," said Chirico, a Republican.
Republican State Central Committee member Bob Grogan of Downers Grove said Irvin "definitely would be a leading contender if he ends up getting in."
"Being elected twice as mayor of the second-largest city in Illinois is pretty impressive," he said
However, "Republican primaries can be quite vicious. The best person doesn't always win, but we'll see," Grogan noted.
Other contenders are state Sen. Darren Bailey of Louisville and venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan of Petersburg.
"Mayor Irvin coming from the suburbs is an advantage in the primary and general election as it is an area the Republicans once overwhelmingly won," noted former state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, a former GOP candidate for governor and former DuPage Republican chairman.
"But Richard has voted in Democrat primaries in the past so he will have to work to win the GOP primary."
Suburbanite Del Mar, Palatine Township Republican Committeeman, thinks the odds favor Rabine, who owns a facilities management company in Schaumburg. "I think he has the leadership skills and knowledge. He's doing this for the right reasons, not a paycheck."
Del Mar, owner of a company that produces marathons, said he was honored to be chosen as running mate and looked forward to an "amazing life experience" on the campaign trail.
He also said his multicultural background broadens the ticket. Del Mar's father came from the Philippines in 1976 "with $40 in his pocket" and worked to become a nuclear engineer; his mother is an ER nurse.
But Pritzker, who has a massive war chest and is running in a blue state, "is formidable," Grogan acknowledged, despite rising crime rates, the COVID-19 pandemic and taxation pushback that will play in the general election.
Wealthy Republican donor and Citadel CEO Ken Griffin has stated he'll finance a worthy contender to Pritzker.
But "the whole donor class is really invigorated" about the primary, Grogan said. "Both the $20 types and the $20,000 types."
Said Del Mar, "I think we'll have a real, robust, challenging primary, but metal sharpens metal and whoever comes out on top -- the main goal is to take on J.B."
Petitions in the primary can be circulated starting Thursday and the filing period is March 7 to March 14. The primary is June 28.