ILLINOIS (WMBD) — With just a little more than one month to go before the primary election, campaign ads are coming out left and right, and it is no different in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

Tuesday night, WMBD’s Matt Sheehan investigated claims against Richard Irvin, made by the Democratic Governor’s Association.

Thursday night, he will look into claims made by the Irvin campaign, against two of his opponents.

Republicans are facing an uphill battle in the governor’s race this election cycle.

Four years ago, Gov. J.B. Pritzker beat out the GOP’s incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Now, candidates are trying to prove to the Republican voting base that they represent conservative values, but they’re also going to have to win over a lot of moderate voters.

One of the most reoccurring campaign ads seen across TV screens in Illinois is from GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Richard Irvin.

Irvin’s ad can be seen attacking Jesse Sullivan and State Sen. Darren Bailey, saying they “supported Obama.”

This, in part, is because Bailey pulled a Democratic Primary ballot in 2008.

Darren Bailey voting record

Bailey claims this was part of Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos.”

“I decided to go along with that. To pull a Democrat ballot, the only time in my life that I’ve done that,” Bailey told Sheehan. “You were supposed to mix the vote up to mess things up for Obama, at the time, who was rising fast. Yes, that comment is grossly taken out of context.”

Bailey responded Wednesday with an ad of his own, calling Irvin a “Lifelong liberal you just can’t trust.”

Bailey’s ad claims Irvin voted for Barack Obama in the Democratic Primary for President. The ad does not specify if it was in 2008 or 2012.

The ad also said Irvin is a “strong supporter” of Chicago’s Democratic Mayor, Lori Lightfoot. It added that Irvin called Pritzker a “great leader and a great friend.”

When the Irvin campaign was asked if he ever voted for Obama or stands by the former two statements, the campaign responded, “no.”

The Kane County Clerk’s Office confirmed to Sheehan that Irvin also pulled a Democratic ballot in the 2012 Primary, but that they did not have the records from 2008. Officials cited the fact the Aurora Election Commission was abolished in 2018.

Sullivan’s camp claims he has “never pulled a Democratic ballot in a primary.”

The campaign sent WMBD’s Matt Sheehan the following statement.

“But rather than answering questions about his own voting record or practically any real policy position, Richard Irvin and his team of insiders have decided to lob false attacks against Jesse and other candidates in this race for governor. 
We have a historic opportunity today to offer a positive, compelling path forward for our state, and make a clean break from J.B. Pritzker’s failed leadership. That is what our campaign is doing, on crime (Safe Streets Plan), corruption (Clean up Agenda), and taxes (Taxpayer Protection Pledge and Taxpayer Bill of Rights). 
It’s time for Richard Irvin to start answering legitimate questions about his own sketchy history to primary voters, like why he and his ex-wife allegedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in exchange for doling out government contracts in Aurora, whether he still supports sanctuary cities, or why Irvin pulled a Democrat ballot in 2014, 2016, 2017, 2020, and 2021. 

Jesse Sullivan Campaign
Jesse Sullivan voting record

While Irvin is trying to put the spotlight on his opponents, he is not talking about his own voting record. Specifically, he has not talked about how he pulled a Democratic ticket in six out of the last seven primary elections. This includes February 2021.

Both Bailey and Sullivan have called Irvin out for not coming clean on issues like the Second Amendment, abortion rights, and his voting history.

Irvin will not answer whether he voted for Donald Trump in 2020.

“It’s absolutely appalling that this man himself will not answer the question of who he voted for,” Bailey said. “We can assume he did not vote for President Trump because he will not admit that. We know that he pulled a Democrat ballot, so we can assume that he voted for Joe Biden.”

Irvin has avoided the question from reporters in the past.

“It’s worth asking, did you vote for Donald Trump in 2020?” Asked WGN-TV reporter Tahman Bradley.

After three seconds of silence, Irvin dodged the question entirely.

“Listen, that’s exactly what JB Pritzker wants us to talk about. He wants to be talking about anything but his record in the state,” Irvin said.

Sheehan spoke with Dr. Megan Remmel, an assistant professor of political science at Bradley University, who explained why Irvin’s ad against Bailey and Sullivan is specifically targeted toward the primary election.

“This isn’t unique to Illinois’ Republican primary. This is happening all over the country,” Remmel said. “The candidates are still using President Obama as a boogeyman to appeal to the voters they think are most likely to show up.”

On advice for how to handle things, Remmel said to first take everything you hear with a grain of salt. Second, do your own research.

“Generally, they will source their information. It might be in little itty-bitty tiny fine print on the bottom, so you may not catch it while you’re immediately watching on TV, but all of these ads are online,” Remmel said. “You can pull up the ad, find the source, and then track back to the source and maybe get a more realistic idea of what that piece of information means.”

Back in 2018, the Democratic Governor’s Association ran an ad against Gubernatorial candidate Jeannie Ives. The ad called Ives “too conservative for Illinois.”

DGA ad

This ad ran while the DGA ran a separate ad attacking former Governor Bruce Rauner.

DGA ad

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said the Democrats would have rather faced Ives in the general election.

“I don’t blame them, you know? It would’ve been an easy race,” Durkin laughed.

We will never know how Ives versus Pritzker would have panned out, but we do know Pritzker beat Rauner in the General Election by nearly 16 points.

“Bruce Rauner, at the end of the day, I will just say… didn’t have the heart to run in those last few months. And we saw that about a month out,” Durkin said.

The Primary Election is on June 28.