By John Kass
May 13, 2022
Richard Irvin, the Combine Republican candidate for governor of Illinois, met the media for only the second time in the campaign the other day. And just like the first time, it was a disaster.
It wasn’t a news conference as much as it was a crazy tea party in Alice’s Wonderland, with the Mad Hatter babbling, refusing to answer questions, even the simple ones and all but demanding reporters to tell the inconvenient truth:
Irvin is not ready for prime time.
Irvin, mayor of Aurora, hand picked by billionaire Ken Griffin’s Combine “consultants,” could not answer simple questions. He kept saying “Let me finish! Let me finish!” at reporters, then avoided answers before running away. The Illinois Republican Party primary election for governor is only short weeks away, on June 28.
Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker was paying attention. He wasn’t wedged on top of a fence like that cat in the Lewis Carroll fantasy (physics prohibit this) or up in a tree (physically impossible), or sitting on a soft chair so as not to stand and risk breaking his leg again (quite possible) Pritzker was certainly aware.
You can see him grinning at Irvine’s Mad Hatter with that big J.B. smile, the one with lots of teeth taking up half his head.
Irvin’s inability to answer questions was astonishing. And they weren’t loaded questions, just questions that most Illinois voters want answers to. “Let me finish!” Irvin kept spluttering, and “Hold on!”
According to reporter Mike Miletich, Irvin said “Let me finish!” at least 25 times. And even when they let him finish, he didn’t say anything.
The simple questions included: How many times has Irvin–billed by the Combine guys as the Republican savior–taken Democratic ballots to vote in Democratic Primaries? And what about Trump? And what about that abortion issue from the leaked Supreme Court opinion?
Reasonable questions all. Important questions for a candidate running for governor. Irvin wouldn’t answer. He panicked. And with a wave and tight smile, he ran away.
On the Supreme Court abortion leak of a draft opinion, one that would overturn Roe v Wade and turn the issue back to the states, Irvin said “Listen, I’m pro life.”
Then he wouldn’t discuss it. It would be irresponsible, he said, to speculate on the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision in the case. But isn’t he running for governor? And if the issue is sent back to the states, isn’t Illinois one of those states?
Mayor Irvin, weasel words won’t make you governor.
What about Republican Irvin voting in Democratic primary elections? Irvin has accused his Republican conservative rival, Sen. Darren Bailey, of doing just that. But what’s sauce for the goose is no good for the Hatter? Irvin avoided that one too.
Accusing somebody of something, then avoiding the same about yourself, well, Mr. Irvin, what do you think that is?
That’s what the bulls leave behind.
Bailey, a conservative Republican reportedly joined “Operation Chaos”in 2008—a conservative Republican strategy designed to drive Democrat Hillary Clinton crazy. But is Bailey a closet Democrat? No.
I spoke to Bailey about this a few days ago while sitting in on Dan Proft’s “Morning Answer” radio show. And I did not find Bailey’s answers to be direct as he should have been. Speak plain, sir, like a farmer. Talk straight.
Still, Bailey is the conservative in this race. I think the battle is between Bailey and Irvin. The others? Venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan is a smooth talker, and I just don’t like smooth talkers anymore. Never have, really. And businessman Gary Rabine, who started out in the family paving business, seems like a decent guy but he won’t win the primary.
Sullivan and Rabine take from Bailey. I wish him well. That’s just the arithmetic and arithmetic is how primaries are decided.
I don’t know Irvin personally. I can’t say he’s evil or good. He’s just the Combine candidate that Ken Griffin’s guys found, and set him up like their mannequin, and they made notes as they considered, like baseball scouts.
Is Irvin a Republican? At least outwardly so, check. Is he black? Check. U.S. Army enlistee? Check. But all that doesn’t prepare him for the job. His handlers protected him from reporters from the beginning of the campaign. He fizzled early with Mike Flannery, panicked actually. And since then his handlers put him up in a tower like some Rapunzel. Now you see the result. He just can’t handle it.
When asked about whether voted for former President Donald Trump, whether he’d vote for Trump in 2024 if Trump runs again for president, Irvin spluttered, again on the defensive.
“That’s exactly what J.B. Pritzker wants all of you to be talking about!” Irvin said, babbling that distraction serves Pritzker. But isn’t it Irvin the one doing the distracting? He spent his news conference scrambling, playing “hide the pea” like a carny at the State Fair. Where’s the lemon shake ups?
The Illinois Republican Party is a mess. And Irvin’s ascendency proves it. He received millions of billionaire Citadel hedge fund boss Ken Griffin’s. And Combine consultants are probably skimming from that pile, too. Consultants get a percentage of a candidate’s ad buys.
The easy thing would be to blame Griffin, but that’s too easy. I do not blame Ken Griffin for this. I’ve met him. He’s a serious person. He cares about the state, about Chicago, he knows both a great city and great state are sliding downhill into the abyss, and he understands why.
But Griffin’s not a political guy. He’s an investor who studies the markets. He hires political guys. They’re slick, but not conservatives. They may talk a conservative game, the way like Karl Rove plays a conservative on TV. But that’s show biz.
The bi-partisan Illinois Combine stretches across the ages, from the time the state was relatively fit, to the twisted hulk it became, from Big Jim Thompson to Jim Edgar, to Edgar’s pal, the convicted Big Bill Cellini. And to the convicted George Ryan and to the convicted bank fraudster and pedophile Dennis Hastert.
They’ve destroyed this great state of Illinois. They cut deals with the Chicago Democrats, like Daley and Boss Madigan–they were praised and protected by their agents throughout media–and by the time they were done Illinois was hollowed out.
The Republican half of the Combine drove Senator Peter Fitzgerald out of Illinois. And the Democrats were equally overjoyed to see Fitzgerald gone.
The oily Hastert wanted to pick the federal prosecutors, which was by rights Fitzgerald’s prerogative as the senior Senator from the party of the president. Hastert got Illinois GOP chair Judy Barr Topinka to block Fitzgerald’s endorsement for re-election.
Think of that for a moment. A sitting Republican senator who brought corruption- busting prosecutors to Illinois was blocked from endorsement of his own party by Combine hacks? Yes.
And who pays? You know who pays.
Illinois and Chicago are Ponzi schemes. There’s no way for the state and city to tax themselves out of the debt they’ve piled up. And with the public employees unions providing taxpayer subsidized Democratic muscle, and with most if not all media favorable to progressives, there is not the political will to make the necessary structural changes.
All that remains is argument. Those in the know are gone or going, because when the music stops, they want a chair to sit in, and not a folding chair in Illinois. Those who stay will do so because of their kids, because of their jobs. Farmers tied to the land. People who can’t change jobs.
Whether they’re in Crestwood or Summit, Peoria or Lincoln Park, or a nice home in Glen Ellyn or Western Springs with rising property taxes eating up the equity and “hate-has-no-home-here signs” stored neatly in the garage until next time, they’re stuck.
The Chicago Democrats who made a killing in the greasy political arts, and the Combine Republicans will be just fine. You won’t have to throw benefits for the Daley boys or Rahm, or Boss Madigan or Boss Burke, even if they go away to college. And you won’t have to pass the hat for Republican state legislators on six figure pensions who hiked your taxes and talked fiscal responsibility until they made a deal with Madigan. Or Democrat state legislators.
They’ve got a plan. And it’ll sound just like hasta la vista, baby.
What’s your plan?
The babbling continues, Mad Hatters all over Illinois politics, jabbering and jabbering, Democrats and Republicans distracting you from the numbers. They toss their buzzwords like race and equity and inclusion, or family values and critical race theory. But the numbers are the numbers.
The numbers are red and angry and they don’t give a fig about rhetoric. And all debts get paid, one way or another.
I just know that someone out there is pouting, and thinking “I’m optimistic, why are you so dark?” OK, you be optimistic. Go play with butterflies. Blow soap bubbles in the park. I’d like to join you.
But I’ve spent my life watching politicians of both parties spend the state and the city into oblivion, with the mouthpieces telling me I’m just too negative. Even those mouthpieces are living large in retirement.
What I care about are the good people who’ll lose out in all of this. Cops, firefighters, paramedics, city workers, state workers. They’re not all public worker union bosses. And there are no more fairy tales for them, except one: We all end up living in Baba Yaga’s house, the hut on the giant chicken feet that moves each night to another place. And she only eats one of us each night. You want fairy tales?
I’m a conservative, not a Republican, especially not an Illinois Republican. Griffin’s Combine boys took his money and they gave him Irvin to beat Pritzker. Just like they took Bruce Rauner’s money, and when they were done with Rauner, they spit him out too. Then they climbed back into the sky, locking their wings, riding on the thermals, turning their leathery heads this way and that, looking for other meat. They found some new meat. They always do.
So the antipathy against Irvin really isn’t against Irvin personally. He’s just the meat puppet the Combine boys found to leverage Griffin’s cash. If Irvin wins the primary, the Combine boys can fill their bellies a few more times.
Weeks ago I wrote a column trying to explain some of this. The Illinois Republican Party wants to take out Pritzker? That’ll require suburban votes. Crime is a big issue in the Cook County suburbs. Yet where is the Republican candidate to press the crime issue against Boss Toni Preckwinkle and get the vote out? Cook County Board President Preckwinkle, chair of the Cook County Democratic Party, is the long-legged spider at the policy center of the crime spike. She’s the patron of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
Where is Preckwinkle’s Republican challenger?
Illinois politics is like that crazy tea party. Not the old conservative Tea Party that was eventually hijacked, herded and neutered by the Washington Combine. But the one out of the Lewis Carroll fantasy, the tea party with the Mad Hatter, of fairytale budgets and policy and Alice and the rabbit. They jabber and jabber about accountability, because it sounds nice, not because they actually want to be accountable.
They’re not accountable. They want you to hold the bag when they fly away.
If Irvin wins the Republican Party primary, then the Combine guys behind him win. You know what the Combine says, don’t you?
When they’re in, we’re in, and when they’re out, we’re in. We’re always in.
(Copyright 2022 John Kass)