Illinois governor hopeful Richard Irvin takes reporters' questions, but doesn't answer most of them

Richard Irvin clashed with reporters Monday at the first Chicago-area news conference of his campaign for governor.

He announced in January. The primary election is June 28.

The announced reason for the Republican Aurora mayor’s event was to blast Democratic incumbent JB Pritzker. Irvin accused Pritzker of criminal negligence in the deaths of 36 at a state veterans home in 2020.

"But for JB Pritzker's failure to act, they could be alive today," Irvin said.


Irvin rarely takes questions from reporters. A campaign aide estimated Irvin’s held a half-dozen or so "media availabilities" downstate.

Irvin’s backed by financial entrepreneur Ken Griffin, Illinois’ richest billionaire. Griffin’s contributed about $45 million so far. It’s enabled Irvin’s spending on TV and social media ads to outpace that of all five of the other Republican candidates for governor.

Irvin's recently taken aim at two rivals. One spot mocks Jesse Sullivan, a cryptocurrency entrepreneur who once worked in dangerous Afghanistan combat zones as a civilian employee of the Defense Department.

Irvin, who has touted his military service in other ads, told the news conference, "I’m offended as a veteran of the United States Army that somebody would pretend that they served our country."

Sullivan's now responding in a new TV spot that features several combat veterans he assisted in Afghanistan. They praise his courage and denounce Irvin’s spot.

"Irvin's attack ad on Jesse Sullivan’s service in Afghanistan is downright disgusting," one veteran declares.

Irvin's also aired attack ads suggesting southern Illinois Senator Darren Bailey is a Democrat. Irvin himself has voted in Democratic primary contests.

After the news conference, Sullivan issued his own response, accusing Irvin of running a "campaign that seems to have no relationship whatsoever with the truth."

"Richard Irvin yet again ducked important questions on abortion and his own Democrat voting record, distorted his own background, and blatantly lied about Jesse Sullivan," the downstate venture capitalist’s campaign wrote.

Bailey tweeted out that he is "the only proven conservative leader in this race."

"A lot of script reading & nervous dipping and dodging from the Irvin basement today," Bailey’s campaign tweeted "Why did it take him several days to face the public? We need a Governor with the courage to lead and the integrity to tell the truth."

On whether he voted for former president Donald Trump and whether he’d support another Trump presidential run, Irvin said Monday, "That’s exactly what J.B. Pritzker wants you to be talking about."

As Irvin and several reporters talked simultaneously, Irvin added, "Hold on! Lemme, lemme, lemme finish! Listen, hold on! Voters, voters know my record!"

"They do not know your record," a reporter shouted back.

In modern memory, no other major candidate for governor has ever waited this long to hold a Chicago news conference. Irvin told reporters he wants to talk about Gov. Pritzker’s record on crime, taxes and political corruption.

On whether he supports a federal ban on abortion, Irvin said, "You know, I’m running for governor of the state of Illinois. I’m not talking about what the federal government’s going to do."

And on the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that could signal the overturning of Roe v. Wade’s protection of abortion rights, Irvin said, "I think it’s irresponsible for us to hypothesize and speculate on what the outcome will be."

His last news conference was in Springfield in March.

Democrats and GOP primary rivals have accused Irvin of hiding. His campaign counters that he’s busy running Aurora, the second largest city in the state.

Irvin did offer some clarity on what he has called his "pro-life" stance, saying he wants to reinstate parental notification for abortions, which Pritzker repealed in a law signed last year. It’s unexplained how Irvin would be able to repeal that law with a Democratic majority. He also said the exceptions to his anti-abortion stance include rape, incest and the health of the mother — the same answer he offered up in a television interview in February.

"I’ve been pro-life my entire political career," Irvin said in response to a question about having in the past voted in Democratic primaries.

Irvin is courting both conservative and suburban women voters, so taking a position on the Supreme Court draft opinion one way or the other could lose him some votes — in the June primary or the November election. Irvin’s key rivals in the GOP primary are firmly anti-abortion, and most issued statements cheering on the potential reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.