Aurora Mayor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin slammed Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s handling of a COVID-19 outbreak at a state-run veterans’ home during a Monday press conference – and repeatedly avoided questions about whether he voted for Donald Trump and his stance on Roe v. Wade potentially being overturned.
During a rare campaign event at which he took questions from reporters, Irvin said he was “sickened” by a report from the state’s auditor general detailing the Illinois Department of Public Health’s slow response to coronavirus cases at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home. The report found IDPH took nearly 12 days to visit the home despite getting regular updates on the outbreak, which eventually claimed 36 lives.
“This is the same person who blasted his predecessor time and time again for the tragedy that occurred at the Quincy Veterans’ Home when 13 veterans lost their lives due to a Legionnaire’s breakout,” Irvin said Monday. “He swore that he would do better as governor. He failed.”
Pritzker responded to the report last week by saying he fired the head of the state’s veterans’ affairs agency when he learned of the situation, and slammed Republican politicians who he said were spreading lies about COVID-19 mitigation efforts amid the outbreak.
When Irvin opened his press conference for questions, he was immediately asked about the leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision that indicates Roe v. Wade is likely to be overturned.
“I’m pro-life, but as it concerns that leaked draft document, until we get the final decision from the Supreme Court, I think it’s irresponsible for us to hypothesize and speculate on what the outcome will be,” Irvin said.
Asked repeatedly whether he’d support a nationwide ban on abortion, an idea that’s been floated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Irvin refused to answer.
“I can’t talk about Mitch McConnell … I’m running for governor of the state of Illinois. I’m not talking about what the federal government’s going to do,” Irvin said, before pivoting to criticize Pritzker’s support for a law allowing people under 18 to get an abortion without their parents being notified.
Asked whether there were any exceptions to his anti-abortion stance, Irvin said he favors allowing them in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at risk.
Irvin, who pulled Democratic primary ballots in 2014, 2016 and 2020, also refused to answer repeated questions about whether he voted for President Donald Trump.
“That’s exactly what J.B. Pritzker wants. That’s exactly what J.B. Pritzker wants all of you to be talking about,” Irvin said. “Voters know my record. What I’m hearing around the state is people want to focus on the future.”
Irvin has rarely taken questions from reporters and did not attend a candidate forum with Republican primary opponents since announcing his bid for governor in January. But his campaign has flooded the airwaves with ads, flush with $45 million in contributions from Illinois’ richest resident, Ken Griffin.
Griffin’s trading firm benefited from a business deal with communications company Scientel Solutions, according to Bloomberg. WTTW News has reported that Scientel got crucial aid from Irvin in its bid to build a controversial communications tower in Aurora, and has received lucrative city contracts.
It’s also been a major donor to Irvin’s mayoral campaign fund, a PAC controlled by Irvin’s former campaign manager, and to campaign fund of Brittany Pedersen, Irvin’s private practice law partner.
Pedersen is a two-time Democratic candidate for the Kane County bench. Last week the Kane County Bar Association listed her as “not presently recommended,” and she received a “not recommended” rating for her 2020 campaign by the Illinois State Bar Association.
WTTW News has also reported on Irvin’s support for an effort that gives him a role in deciding whether certain candidates stay on city ballots; his ex-wife’s job with a company tied to a development deal getting tens of millions in city of Aurora incentives; and a pattern of donations from individuals and businesses getting city contracts and incentives donating to Irvin, his ex-campaign manager’s PAC, and Pedersen.
Campaign finance reform advocates say while not illegal, such deals can erode voters’ trust and offer favorable treatment for political insiders.
Irvin and those involved have defended the deals and donations. In a Daily Herald candidate forum during his 2021 mayoral reelection bid, Irvin batted away his competitors’ suggestions that taking contributions from people doing business with the city can give an appearance of “pay to play.”
“The only way (my opponents) even know that anyone would donate to my campaign is because I put it out there for the world to see. The only way they know about it is because I filed documents saying these individuals gave donations to the campaign fund of Richard Irvin,” said Irvin, who is legally required to disclose those contributions. “If there was something wrong with it then, y’know, I wouldn’t tell anybody.”