From which party would you expect to get the first black governor of Illinois?

The Illinois gubernatorial Republican primary is garnering a lot of attention.  Illinois voters will go to the polls on June 28 to determine which candidates will represent them in the general election.  Incumbent Governor J.B. Pritzker is all but certain to be the Democratic nominee, as he has put $90 million of his own money into his re-election campaign.  On the Republican side, there is no establishment favorite.  However, Mayor Richard Irvin of Aurora has emerged as the new frontrunner for the GOP.

According to a recent WGN-The Hill-Emerson College Poll, Mayor Irvin leads his Republican opponents with 24% of likely Republican support, with state senator Darren Bailey coming in second with 20%.  The economy remains of the utmost importance for Illinois voters, with 54.2% ranking it as their number-one concern.  Irvin leads the pack when asked who would best handle the state's finances.  Irvin also leads among Republican primary voters with the best ability to tackle crime at 30%.  The primary candidates all have plenty of ground to gain, as 36% of voters say they have not decided whom to support for governor.

Mayor Irvin has been able to stay on top despite an onslaught of political ads criticizing his record as mayor of Aurora and conservative credentials.  Irvin has the endorsement and financial backing of Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, who pledged $20 million and committed another $25 million to the Irvin campaign.  In an interview with the Better Government Association in February, Griffin touted Irvin's credentials by saying, "He's an incredible leader, has a strong track record as mayor of Aurora, and really epitomizes the American dream.  I believe he has the talent, the drive and the caring that we need to turn Illinois around.  Richard understands the importance of making business people know that he understands the joint prosperity that comes with a successful business community."

Mayor Irvin was recently attacked by TV ads from the DGA criticizing his "tough on crime" stance.  Illinois GOP leaders, who have endorsed Irvin, have accused Governor Pritzker of interfering in the GOP gubernatorial primary.  Records show that the commercial attacking Irvin is from a $700,000 campaign ad financed by the DGA.  Irvin responded in a counter-ad, claiming that Pritzker is afraid he will lose to him and referring to himself as "Democrats' worst nightmare."  Political analyst Laura Washington of ABC7 Chicago went as far as to say that "the Democrats see Irvin as the biggest threat, and they want to respond to that the threat."

Irvin made a recent campaign stop in Rockford, Illinois's fourth largest city, to tout his conservative bona fides.  In an interview with 23 News, Irvin specifically addressed the crime issue, saying, "We want to use the same ideas we used in Aurora to reduce crime.  A few years ago, Aurora was one of the most violent cities per capita in the State of Illinois.  Now we're one of the safest large cities in America."  During Irvin's first year as mayor, homicides decreased by 40%.  In addition, Mayor Irvin increased the city's police budget and hired more cops.  He even called in the National Guard during the protests of 2020.  The Aurora Police Department reported statistics of a 45% decrease in overall crime from 2020 to 2021 due to Aurora's enhanced policing under Mayor Irvin.

Despite increases in the city budget, Mayor Irvin could balance the city's budget without raising taxes.  The city's budget for 2022 is $529 million.  Aurora city government chief financial officer Christopher Minick expressed his excitement, saying, "We do anticipate approximately $491 million in expenses, presenting approximately a $7 million surplus for the city for fiscal year 2022.  Illinois ranks 45th in economic outlook and Mayor Irvin promises a fiscally conservative approach in Springfield."

Irvin also has a life story that will resonate with voters.  He was born to a single mother in Aurora and was the first in his family to graduate college.  He became the first black male to be elected to the city council of Aurora and then the first black mayor of Aurora.

In the general, Irvin will face an uphill battle, as Illinois Democrats outnumber Republicans 48% to 33%.  Given the abysmal performance of Democrats at the national level, economic stagnation, and rising crime in the Land of Lincoln, Mayor Irvin can reverse Republicans' election woes in a deep blue state and become Illinois's first black governor.

Image: OZinOH via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0.

If you experience technical problems, please write to