Former military prosecutor and one-term Downstate Republican state Sen. Paul Schimpf formally announced his candidacy for governor on Monday, contending Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker has lost public confidence over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schimpf, of Waterloo in the Metro-East area of southwestern Illinois, also contended recent Illinois governors have been out of touch with their constituents.
“For far too long, we have had Illinois governors who were either career politicians or wealthy corporate executives who couldn’t understand or empathize with the struggles that the people of Illinois face,” he said in making his announcement for the GOP nomination via Zoom.
“We need a governor who understands those day-to-day challenges that we all face, a governor who will live by the same rules that the rest of us follow, a governor who will stand up to the entrenched special interest groups that have done so much damage. Most importantly, we need a governor we can trust to do the right thing and make tough decisions,” he said.
Schimpf, who opted not to seek reelection Nov. 3 after four years in the state Senate, becomes the first person to formally enter the 2022 sweepstakes for the GOP governor nomination. In 2014, he ran unsuccessfully for attorney general against then-incumbent Democrat Lisa Madigan.
Current Downstate state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia, who has unsuccessfully contested Pritzker’s pandemic restrictions, and suburban business owner Gary Rabine are among several other Republicans eyeing a bid for the nomination.
On the other side is Pritzker, a multibillionaire who spent a record $171.5 million of his own money to defeat one-term Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2018. Rauner spent more than $71 million. Pritzker has not formally announced his intention to seek another term.
“I know that Gov. Pritzker has a lot of resources,” Schimpf said. “I don’t expect to be able to match him dollar for dollar, but I do expect to be able to get my message out with a lot of hard work.”
Campaign finance records show Schimpf began the year with $62,529 and has raised another $87,000 since Jan. 1.
Schimpf said he would run in support of safe communities, including “unambiguous support for the law enforcement community.” But in briefly taking questions from reporters, he indicated a major campaign theme will be challenging Pritzker’s handling of the pandemic.
“The Pritzker administration has not given the Illinois General Assembly the opportunity to provide meaningful oversight of his pandemic response. And because of that, people have frankly lost confidence in Gov. Pritzker’s ability to handle the pandemic,” Schimpf said.
Sign up for The Spin to get the top stories in politics delivered to your inbox weekday afternoons.
Quentin Fulks of the governor’s political campaign said, “For the past two years, Governor Pritzker has been getting big things done for the people of Illinois and is focused on keeping Illinoisans safe by combating the coronavirus pandemic and rebuilding our economy so that it works for everyone.”
Asked how he would handle regional differences between Downstate, which has grown deeply Republican and supportive of former President Donald Trump, and the once GOP-led suburbs, which have grown increasingly Democratic, Schimpf dismissed the issue.
“I think that we have much more in common than what divides us, so I’m not worried about being (able) to both work for and appeal to people throughout Illinois,” he said.
Democrats immediately sought to label Schimpf an “acolyte” of Rauner and Trump, noting Schimpf’s social media support for Trump’s initial election and his reelection.
“Schimpf has been an avowed supporter of our two most disastrous elected officials and Illinois voters will reject his rerun of their failed policies in November 2022,” Mary Morrissey, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said in a statement.
“Voters in Illinois have seen firsthand what happens when the Rauner and Trump agendas are put into place and they rejected them just as they will reject Paul Schimpf,” she said.
Schimpf was born at Scott Air Force Base in Belleville and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and was commissioned in the Marine Corps where he was an infantry officer at Camp Pendleton in California and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
After receiving his law degree, he served in several prosecutorial roles, including being deployed to Iraq in 2005 to was the lead American attorney adviser to Iraqi prosecutors in the trial of Saddam Hussein. He retired from the Marine Corps in 2013.
(c) 2021 the Chicago Tribune
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.