CHICAGO - After spending tens of millions of dollars, candidate Richard Irvin has taken virtually all his downstate TV ads off the air. He’s still advertising in the Chicago market, where about half of Illinois’ Republican primary voters reside.
It's a surprising move, less than three weeks from election day. And it follows the release of a voter opinion survey claiming Aurora Mayor Irvin is no longer the Republican frontrunner.
Sources close to Irvin said Gov. JB Pritzker and his allies are on track to spend $32 million trying to defeat Irvin in the June 28 Republican primary. It's an unprecedented amount of meddling in another party's decision-making. And it clearly reflects Pritzker’s fear that one of Irvin’s running mates may have been correct Wednesday in what he said at suburban factory appearance with Irvin.
State Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon), a candidate for state treasurer, declared, "The race for governor is so important! And that's why in this primary election we're coming together to support the one person who can beat JB Pritzker in November — Richard Irvin."
Just a few months ago, Irvin was little known outside of west suburban Aurora, where he's been mayor since 2017. Then, Illinois’ richest billionaire, Ken Griffin, decided to back Irvin for governor, contributing more than $45 million. But that sum is dwarfed by the $100 million or more billionaire Pritzker is pumping into his own campaign warchest and those of political allies, much of it being spent to attack Irvin and boost Republican rival State Sen. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia.) Democrats believe Bailey would be easier to defeat in November.
Another billionaire, conservative activist Dick Uihlein, favors Bailey and is spending millions more to attack Irvin, too.
The result, according to a survey last week by former President Trump's pollster: Bailey leads Irvin 27% to 20%, a net flip of 13 percentage points in the last month. Cryptocurrency entrepreneur Jesse Sullivan had 13%, with 12% for suburban paving contractor Gary Rabine.
Referring to the Irvin campaign, Bailey said, "These people didn't start off good at all. Look, whatever it is, I think it shows the weakness in their campaign."