SPRINGFIELD – The six Republican candidates for Illinois governor faced off Tuesday night in Chicago, albeit on two separate debate stages, hours after a shooting at a Texas elementary school that dominated a large portion of the debates.
A scheduling conflict between two TV networks – WGN and NBC 5 – had the candidates split into groups of three. NBC’s debate included Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, the polling and money frontrunner, along with former Waterloo state Sen. Paul Schimpf and suburban attorney Max Solomon. The WGN debate that followed included Sen. Darren Bailey, of Xenia, Petersburg venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan and suburban paving magnate Gary Rabine.
Much of the discussion revolved around a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old barricaded himself in a fourth-grade classroom and killed at least 21 individuals, including 19 children.
Irvin noted he was mayor of Aurora in 2019 when a shooter killed six, including himself, at the Henry Pratt Company in that city. Irvin said a governor would have to “make sure that not only we heal after this, these events that seem to be happening so much throughout our country day in and day out where we’re comparing one violent act to another.”
“We need to make sure that we support our police, and we support our neighbors, and our families, and our friends, and these school children that we don’t allow weapons to get into the hands of criminals and those with mental illnesses,” Irvin added.
Irvin’s response followed Schimpf, who cited law enforcement support as well.
“We also have to be exploring mental illness and the challenge that mental illness faces, poses for our country,” Schimpf said, without giving specifics.
Solomon said all schools should have armed security guards.
Bailey said he would look to repeal the state’s Firearm Owners Identification law – a move that would require action from lawmakers – and pointed to the state of New York, where shootings occur despite “some of the most egregious gun laws that there are.”
He said he’d like to partner with and “empower” community groups and church groups to be able to “deal with mental health.”
Sullivan said “some of the root causes are getting back to fatherhood, and promoting the family in our society again.”
“I really do feel like when you remove God from our society, these are the types of things that happen,” he said.
Rabine responded that “bad people are going to get guns” regardless of policy.
“So we’ve got, we’ve got to really be better, in my opinion, raise our kids better than we are and do better things,” he said.
Schimpf also said he would look to get rid of the FOID law.
“We need to enforce the gun laws that we have,” he said.
Irvin said the FOID process – which saw an overhaul passed by state lawmakers in 2021 that strengthened Illinois State Police’s FOID enforcement abilities and directed the agency to create a searchable database with serial numbers of stolen gun – is “broken,” but he endorsed background checks.
ON CRIME, CHICAGO: Irvin, Schimpf and Solomon were asked if they would call in the National Guard – which only governors can do – to address violence in Chicago.
“If necessary, I would definitely call them in Chicago, you know, as governor,” Irvin said without answering whether it would be necessary right now. He also claimed he called the National Guard into Aurora in response to rioting in 2020.
Irvin said he’d focus on “three Cs – children, cops, community,” by “getting kids into positive programs,” putting more police officers on the beat and “empowering the community to help our police take back their streets.”
“I don’t care how many people you arrest, if you don’t give the community an opportunity to address and work and take pride and stock in their own community, it’s just going to return,” he said.
The budget that passed this year with only Democratic votes included hundreds of millions of dollars for community youth investment and violence prevention programs, money for three new classes State Police troopers, and $10 million for law enforcement recruitment and retention.
Bailey said he voted against the budget because “more money always seems to be the answer for Illinois politicians,” touting a “zero-based budget” process to “cut the fat,” although he did not identify programs he would cut. He also said more conversations are needed between lawmakers and law enforcement.
When asked how he would keep guns out of the hands of mental health patients, Bailey said he would look to partner with churches and civic groups, then launched into an attack on Chicago’s leaders.
“Let’s focus on the city of Chicago a minute, let’s just call it like it is. Let’s think about Chicago, a crime-ridden, corrupt, dysfunctional hellhole.” he said.
Bailey, who promoted a measure in the General Assembly that would make Chicago a separate state from the rest of Illinois, said as governor he would be “standing up” and “fighting for” Chicago “just as much as I will be fighting for the state of Illinois.”
Former Illinois lawmaker sentenced in bribery scheme
Sullivan and Rabine said they’d push to create an option for voters to recall state’s attorneys, such as Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, although Illinois law does not currently allow it. Sullivan said he would “surge the National Guard.”
Schimpf, a U.S. Marine who was an American adviser in the trial of Saddam Hussein, was more measured in his response.
“Well, the National Guard is not a solution that you can just say I’m going to call in the National Guard as a governor and that’s going to solve all the problems,” he said, noting he’d be a more supportive governor of law enforcement.
Solomon said he would have called in the National Guard “yesterday,” and he would accept federal aid no matter who is president.
ARROYO SENTENCED: Former state Rep. Luis Arroyo was sentenced this week to nearly five years in prison for his role in a bribery scheme involving a state senator and one of Arroyo’s private lobbying clients who sought favorable legislation for the sweepstakes gambling industry.
Arroyo, 67, is a Chicago Democrat who represented the 3rd District in the House from 2006 to 2019. He was arrested on bribery charges in October 2019 and resigned his seat on Nov. 1 that year, just moments before a special investigative committee was to meet to consider whether he should be ousted from office.
Even after resigning, though, Arroyo maintained that he was innocent. He finally pleaded guilty to the charges in November 2021.
According to the indictment, in 2018 and 2019 Arroyo accepted thousands of dollars in bribes from a gaming company, Collage LLC, in exchange for promoting legislation authorizing electronic sweepstakes machines, which look and operate much like slot machines.
In addition, he was accused of bribing a sitting state senator at the time, now known to be former Sen. Terry Link, a Lake County Democrat, for supporting that legislation. Arroyo and Link, who was wearing a wire, reportedly met at a Skokie restaurant in August 2019 where Arroyo handed Link a $2,500 check from Collage with a promise of additional monthly payments for as long as a year in exchange for Link’s support of the legislation.
During that conversation, according to federal prosecutors, Arroyo told Link, “This is the jackpot.”
That investigation was part of a wide-ranging probe into public corruption in the Chicago area conducted by U.S. Attorney John Lausch’s office and the FBI.
Also as a result of that investigation, Link was later charged and pleaded guilty to tax evasion. He was not immediately sentenced in exchange for his agreement to cooperate with the ongoing investigation. He resigned from the Senate in September 2020.
And former House Speaker Michael Madigan, who had pressured Arroyo to resign and called the allegations against him “beyond extraordinary,” was indicted earlier this year on charges related to a separate bribery scheme involving utility giant Commonwealth Edison. He resigned in January 2021 after failing to win reelection to another term as speaker.
CENSUS UNDERCOUNT: Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday that he is asking President Joe Biden and the federal government to increase Illinois’ share of federal funding to reflect the results of a recent Census Bureau study showing the state was very likely undercounted in the 2020 census.
The news release from the governor’s office proclaimed, “Updated census data indicates Illinois has surpassed 13 million residents for the first time in history.” Meanwhile, Democrats in Illinois’ congressional delegation wrote directly to the Census Bureau to ask how the survey data will be used, warning of “grave consequences” of ignoring the new data.
The official 2020 census numbers released last August, however, have not been changed, “adjusted,” “updated” or “revised,” according to the Census Bureau. Illinois population is still counted as roughly 12.8 million.
Pritzker’s assertions, along with those of many others, are based on last week’s release of data from the Census Bureau’s “Post-Enumeration Survey,” or PES for short, which showed the state might have gained as many as 250,000 residents since the 2010 census.
“Consistent with our prior practice, we will not be adjusting the census counts for apportionment or redistricting,” Census Bureau statistician Timothy Kennel said during a media briefing last week. “The Post-Enumeration Survey is a probability survey of about 161,000 housing units in about 10,000 blocks across the country that is independent of the census operation.”
Based on data gathered in the PES survey, Illinois was among six states that had “statistically significant” undercounts in the 2020 census while eight states had statistically significant overcounts.
After each decennial census, bureau officials go into the field to conduct a follow-up survey, known as the PES. This year, they randomly selected 161,000 households – out of roughly 127 million occupied housing units in the country – and sent the occupants a survey questionnaire, basically asking them the same questions that appear on the census form: names, ages and demographic profile of each occupant of the household.
After subtracting from the sample any vacant structures, group living quarters and households that didn’t respond to the survey, they were left with a sample of about 114,000 households nationwide. From there, they compared the information on the survey form with the information submitted in the actual 2020 enumeration.
In this case, Illinois’ undercount was estimated at 1.97%. That would mean the population of the state that was reported in the 2020 census was only 98.03% of what it should have been, based on the survey. With “90% confidence,” officials pegged the undercount between 3.43% and 0.51%.
Pritzker and congressional Democrats aren’t trying to gain back the U.S. House seat that Illinois lost this year, which the Supreme Court ruled in 1999 is not permissible. They’re concerned about Illinois’ share of roughly $1.5 trillion in federal funding that flows to state and local governments based on formulas that use census data.
Photos: Greg Harris’ time in the Illinois legislature