Pritzker accuses Republican Illinois gubernatorial candidates of buying a ‘big lie’ about the 2020 election

As he steps up his bid for re-election, Governor JB Pritzker fired some of his sharpest jabs yet at Republican challengers on Friday, accusing them of buying off ‘crazy’ messages spread by the former president Donald Trump, including false conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

In one of Pritzker’s first public appearances since formalizing his bid for a second term last summer, the incumbent Democratic told a small group of suburban northern supporters that anyone in the five-for-one race the GOP nomination would turn Illinois “upside down.”

“Some of these people running on the Republican side — maybe all of them, I’m not sure — don’t accept the 2020 election results. … [They] wonder if elections are fair in Illinois, and they can’t even call out former President Trump when he says crazy things about our country.

“I’m afraid having a governor in the sixth most populous state in the country and the fifth largest economy in the county – in the middle of the country – you know, the governor being someone who believes in the big lie? It’s not who we are in Illinois,” Pritzker said.

President Donald Trump, left, in April 2020; Governor JB Pritzker, right, March 30, 2020.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images; Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times File

During a 45-minute chat with senior citizens held in the living room of residents of Evanston, Cynthia and Steven Franklin, the Chicago Democrat mostly touted the improvement in state finances under his administration and pushed its latest budget proposal. Asked what was at stake in November’s general election, Pritzker warned “we don’t want to go back.”

“We are doing better than people would expect, and I think changing course would be the wrong direction,” the billionaire governor said.

Gov. JB Pritzker makes a campaign stop and chats with Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen (center, left) and others during a roundtable Friday morning.

Governor JB Pritzker makes a campaign stop and chats with Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen (center, left) and others during a panel discussion on the November election at the Evanston home of Steven and Cynthia Franklin, Friday morning.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Pritzker — whose public schedule has been light on campaign appearances, though his ads have flooded the airwaves — is sure to continue trying to tie GOP challengers to Trump, who garnered about 41% of the vote in the Illinois in 2020 against President Joe Biden’s 58%.

But the reality TV star turned Republican president remains hugely popular in many downstate counties, posing a conundrum for GOP candidates vying for the June 28 primary for the chance to take on Pritzker. in November.

Republicans say Pritzker is trying to distract from issues like rising crime.

Bull Valley businessman Gary Rabine pushed back in an email, saying: ‘My concern is that the vote is not fraudulent and that as many people want to vote. Pritzker has to focus on Trump because he can’t talk about the COVID chaos he’s created and the fact that Chicago, his state’s largest city, is now the nation’s crime capital.

Former state senator Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, said Pritzker was “speaking half-truths to Illinois voters to distract from his failure to address election integrity in a meaningful way.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, left, in 2019;  Suburban businessman Gary Rabine, center, in March;  Former Senator Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, right.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, left, in 2019; Suburban businessman Gary Rabine, center, in March; Former Senator Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, right.
Patrick Kunzer/Daily Herald-File; Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times File; Facebook

“In early spring 2021, I announced in a television interview that the legal challenges were over and that I accepted Joe Biden as president,” Schimpf said in a statement.

Unlike most other candidates, State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, has actively courted far-right voters as a strong Trump supporter. Through a spokesperson, Bailey acknowledged “President Biden” and said Pritzker was “clearly deviating,” but he would not say directly whether he believes the 2020 election results were valid.

On Wednesday, Bailey walked out of a Springfield press conference he and other Republicans called to address Pritzker’s phasing out of masking without answering a reporter’s question about the Jan. 6 insurrection or whether Bailey will accept the results of this year’s election.

“It’s over,” Bailey said as the reporter repeatedly asked the question about this year’s election. “It has nothing to do with what we are here [for].”

State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, right, ends a press conference in Springfield on Wednesday after a reporter asked him to accept the election results.  State Representative Adam Niemerg (R-Dieterich), left, and State Representative Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City), center, also spoke at the event.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, right, ends a press conference in Springfield on Wednesday after a reporter asked him to accept the election results. State Representative Adam Niemerg (R-Dieterich), left, and State Representative Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City), center, also spoke at the event.
Blue room flow

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, who became the Illinois Republican Party establishment’s choice for the nomination, has acknowledged in interviews that “Joe Biden is the President of the United States,” but Irvin has dodged further questions about Trump — including whether he voted for him.

Irvin’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment Friday. He, too, hammered home a law and order campaign message, posting a new ad on Friday bragging that “Crime is down in Aurora because the police budget is up.”

Jesse Sullivan, a venture capitalist from upstate Petersburg, has also avoided discussing Trump since joining the race last summer. His campaign did not return a request for comment on Friday.

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