Fallout for Irvin regarding remarks on friend's arrest? Wait until Election Day, experts say

With just 40 days before the Republican primary, GOP insiders had no consensus on the impact of a report about gubernatorial contender Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin's role in a friend's arrest.

Irvin was called to a city marijuana shop in May 2021 by his former girlfriend, Laura Ayala-Clarke, who was facing charges accusing her of battery of a security guard, the Chicago Tribune and Aurora Beacon News reported Wednesday.

While sitting with Ayala-Clarke in his car, Irvin made a call on Bluetooth, told a person about the situation and said the "charges would be taken care of," a police report obtained by the Daily Herald says.

Irvin, an attorney, told the Tribune he didn't make any phone calls and the comment was intended to reassure his friend. "When I told her that ... things 'would be taken care of,' I meant that she would get a lawyer, which is what I helped her to do," he said.

Any inference that the remark meant using his authority to drop charges was incorrect, Irvin said.

Six Republicans are battling for their party's nomination for governor, with some analysts suggesting the June 28 vote could be a tossup between the mayor, state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia and venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan of Petersburg.

Asked if the report would affect Irvin's campaign, "I don't believe it will or should," said Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico, a supporter.

"His explanation sounds very believable to me, and the police report did not include anything that he did or said to influence the outcome, so it sounds to me he was just helping a friend ... as he stated," Chirico said.

The case is pending in Kane County Circuit Court with a status date of June 21.

One potential red flag with conservative voters may be the mention of marijuana use by a friend of the mayor, despite it being legal, experts said.

However, veteran political analyst Pat Durante of Addison said, "bottom line, I don't think it will hurt (Irvin) that much. But we won't know until Election Day."

Crime in Illinois has dominated the campaigns of Irvin and his rivals. "I'm a former prosecutor, a person who put violent criminals behind bars," he said in February.

Bailey spokesman Joe DeBose said the senator "was the true conservative and law and order candidate in this race. Darren Bailey understands that no one is above the law."

The police report indicates Ayala-Clarke had tried to use an ATM at the Zen Leaf dispensary on Route 59 in Aurora on May 24, 2021. When unable to get cash, she became disruptive, yelling at customers who had no issues working the machine, police said.

After a security guard asked Ayala-Clarke to leave and then tried to escort her out, she kicked the guard, who pepper-sprayed her, police said.

Ayala-Clark told police she did not want to leave until the ATM issue was resolved but was "grabbed" by the guard.

While in the car with Ayala-Clarke, Irvin was upset that security placed "their hands on her," the report says.

Asked if he tried to intervene in the arrest, Irvin told the Tribune: "No, not at all. I'm sure that would be in the police report if I did. As you can tell, if I was trying to influence this, my name probably wouldn't have been in the police report at all."

Irvin's spokespeople said Thursday he would have no further comment on the case. Ayala-Clarke's attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

Also vying for the GOP nomination are McHenry County businessman Gary Rabine, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo and Max Solomon of Hazel Crest.

Asked about turnout in next month's primary, coming later than its more common March date, former Cook County Republican Party chairwoman Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman said "it's tough to gauge; we have nothing to compare it to."

About a third of Republican voters haven't chosen a gubernatorial candidate, Gorman said, and "right now it's a tossup with the undecideds.

"I think voters are looking for somebody to cure the economic problems - inflation, gas prices. People are hurting," said the former Cook County commissioner, who's running to reclaim a Cook County Board seat this year.

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