Governor JB Pritzker on Tuesday defended a television ad paid for by the Democratic Governors Association that attacks one of the Republican gubernatorial candidates as “just telling the truth.”
The ad, which ran last week, attacks Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin for his years as a criminal defense attorney. Irvin, who has the backing of billionaire hedge fund chief Ken Griffin, has made blaming Pritzker for the rise in crime a focal point of his campaign.
“Richard Irvin’s true record on crime?” For 15 years, Irvin was a defense attorney who profited from defending some of the most violent and heinous criminals…” says the ad’s narrator. “Irvin got rich putting violent criminals back on our streets.”
Pritzker, himself a billionaire who has donated more than $2.3 million to the DGA since 2017, made his first comments on the announcement on Tuesday during a bill signing ceremony in his office in the State Capitol.
“It’s important for Democrats to be involved in telling the truth there and when it comes to what the DGA is doing here in Illinois, they’re just telling the truth, which is more than what the DGA campaign does. ‘Irvin can tell,” Pritzker said.
Republicans hit Pritzker for the announcement because anyone charged with a crime is entitled to a competent defense. They say it is hypocritical for Pritzker to criticize Irvin’s record as a defense attorney after he signed a criminal justice overhaul last year that sets tough standards for police behavior and has initiated pro-defendant reforms such as the elimination of cash bail. The law, he said, would help eliminate “systemic racism” and “bring us closer to real safety, real fairness and real justice”.
Irvin, who was not made available for an interview on Tuesday, said in a statement last week that Pritzker “would do anything to win.”
“Pritzker is trying to hijack the Republican primary because he can’t run away from the facts: Crime is out of control, tax hikes continue, and corruption persists in state government under Pritzker’s rule. “, Irvin said.
Kent Redfield, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Springfield and an expert on campaign finance, said outside groups such as the DGA rarely try to influence an opposition primary campaign.
“They try to affect things strategically,” Redfield said. “It’s not unprecedented, but it’s unusual.”
It’s likely the idea is to soften Irvin, Redfield said, in favor of a candidate such as state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia, whom Pritzker fans consider more beatable. His financial advantage makes Irvin, whose resume also includes a stint as a prosecutor, the frontrunner in the June 28 primary.
There’s nothing illegal about the ad or the way it was executed, Redfield said, but Pritzker “put money in a second group and have that group spend the money on your name is something less than maximum transparency”.
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