Conservative megadonor reportedly wants Illinois mayor to take on Democratic governor


Griffin, for his part, denied that he’s picked a candidate, though he made it clear he wanted to see Pritzker gone. However, one GOP source who spoke to Griffin’s people told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Rachel Hinton that regarding Irvin, “They’ve been after him for awhile, and [Irvin’s] been going back and forth. But there’s no doubt that he’s the christened choice.”

Not everyone, though, is happy with Griffin’s machinations. One person identified only as a “prominent Republican” told Pearson, “These Griffin people behind the curtain, we don’t know. Is it like the Wizard of Oz?” They added, “I’m not saying they don’t have any credibility, but it’s a little bold to say to the Republican State Central Committee, ‘OK boys and girls, line up. This is what we’re going to do.”

The GOP primary already includes venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, who has his own wealthy backers; state Rep. Darren Bailey; businessman Gary Rabine; and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, and they’d each have plenty of material to attack Irvin over if he also got in. The mayor voted in the 2014, 2016, and 2020 Democratic primaries, though he did cast a ballot in the 2018 Republican contest. 

Pearson also writes that Irvin “supports immigrant rights, and implementing sanctuary city-style policies with law enforcement for immigrants who lack legal status.” Irvin also proclaimed a day of honor to acknowledge Ngozi Ezike, the state director of public health who has implemented many of the measures to curb the pandemic that the GOP base utterly despises. Perhaps most notably, Irvin’s associates relay that he’s told them he’s pro-choice, though his advisor denies this.

Meanwhile, a different Republican billionaire is showing a small bit of interest in getting into the race himself. While Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts reportedly said no to running last month, a spokesman now says that “Ricketts has no current plans to run for governor,” which Crain’s Chicago Business correctly interprets as not ruling anything out. Illinois’ filing deadline isn’t until March, but serious candidates always start collecting signatures well before then in a state where petition challenges are a way of life.

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