Richard Irvin, whose campaign is an experiment in whether money alone wins you a victory Credit: City of Aurora

It’s been over two weeks since Aurora mayor Richard Irvin announced he’s running for governor, making him a front-runner for the Republican nomination.

And yet he still hasn’t mentioned the T word.

That’s T as in Trump. Donald Trump to be exact—the man MAGA loves to love. Though, come to think of it, I haven’t heard Irvin mention Junior, Ivanka, Eric, Tiffany, or Ivana Trump either.

For what it’s worth, Ivana’s my favorite Trump. ’Cause she took Donald to the cleaners on their divorce. Just saying, big feller.

Irvin also hasn’t mentioned any of Trump’s wacky themes. Like the presidential election was stolen, even though it wasn’t. Or the insurrectionists should be pardoned, even though they were whacking cops with hockey sticks and fire extinguishers.

As for overturning Roe v. Wade—church-mouse silence on that. Even though Irvin’s running mate, state representative Avery Bourne, has been a crusader to make abortion illegal in Illinois. More on that later.

In short, Irvin is running a classic duck-and-dodge campaign—racing like Dale Earnhardt Jr. away from contentious issues that could get him in trouble with either MAGA or the state’s sane voters.

Future political scientists will want to look at Irvin’s campaign as the ultimate experiment in whether money alone wins you a victory, even if you hide from the principles you supposedly believe in.

In this case, the money comes from Kenneth Griffin, the richest man in Illinois, who’s pledged to spend tens of millions of dollars to unseat Governor Pritzker, a man he obviously despises.

Griffin has let it be known that he’s backing Irvin, which is why Irvin’s viewed as the front-runner for the Republican nomination.

As far as I can tell, the governing passion in Griffin’s life is making money. As such, he seems to be against any initiative that would make him pay more in taxes so it can be spent on social programs that he won’t directly benefit from.

To this point, he spent about $50 million to defeat the Fair Tax initiative that would have raised taxes on billionaires and cut them on most everyone else.

That fight pitted lefties on the margin like me against billionaires like Griffin. He paid for anti-Fair Tax commercials so hilariously dumb that I declared: no way will Illinois voters be gullible enough to fall for this crap.

Alas, Illinois voters, you proved me wrong again. My side got clobbered.

Obviously, Griffin must think Irvin represents his best chance to unseat Pritzker. A tough-on-crime Black Republican, Irvin is a former cop who declares in his commercials that “all lives matter.” 

Just so MAGA understands where he stands on that whole Black Lives Matter thing.

On other MAGA issues, though—silence, which brings us to abortion.

Choosing Bourne as his running mate was clearly Irvin’s way of telling anti-abortion voters that he’s with them.

After all, Bourne, a downstate Republican, is a legislative sponsor of the Born Alive Infant bill. That one would “provide that a live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law.”

Basically treating an abortion as murder.

She’s also the sponsor of the Ultrasound Opportunity Act, which mandates “that at any facility where abortions are performed, [a physician] . . . shall offer any woman seeking an abortion after 8 weeks of gestation an opportunity to receive and view an active ultrasound of her unborn child.”

Clearly there are some mandates that MAGA loves—especially if they’re messing with the minds of women seeking abortions.

Bourne is also one of several sponsors of a bill that would repeal the Reproductive Health Act, which was passed in 2021 and signed into law by Governor Pritzker. That law pretty much guarantees access to abortion in Illinois even if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

So if Bourne gets her way, and Roe’s overturned, it’s really only a matter of time before Illinois goes the way of Texas on this issue. 

And yet there’s no mention of abortion—even indirectly—on the Irvin-Bourne campaign website

In contrast, Irvin’s Republican opponents address abortion on their campaign websites. Apparently, they’re not as ashamed of their MAGA roots.

The website of state senator Darren Bailey says: “As a man of faith, Darren is proudly pro-life and will always stand up to protect the rights of the unborn.”  

And Gary Rabine’s website says: “Gary is Catholic and pro-life.”

And Jesse Sullivan writes: “Jesse’s faith has taught him the sanctity of life and the need to protect our most vulnerable, including the unborn.”

And Mancow writes: “Mooo.”

I know—too easy. Just so you know, radio personality Erich “Mancow” Muller claims he’s running for governor. But he hasn’t put up a website. 

All in all, it’s pretty obvious that the guys advising Irvin—aka the best Republican strategists Ken Griffin’s money can buy—learned a lesson or two from the Bruce Rauner debacle.

Back in 2014, Rauner defeated Governor Quinn running as a pro-choice “fiscal conservative.” Meaning, he promised to cut taxes and obliterate collective-bargaining rights while keeping abortion legal.

That enabled him to pick up a lot of swing voters in Lake and DuPage counties.

Once in office, however, MAGA hammered Rauner when, squirming all the way, he made good on his campaign promise and signed HB40, a reproductive rights bill.

Signing that bill prompted ultra conservative Jeanne Ives to run against him in the Republican primary. He beat Ives but never quite recovered from a bruising fight.

Obviously, Irvin and his strategists realize abortion is a volatile wedge issue for Republicans. If they go like Rauner, they lose the MAGA base. If they go like Ives, they lose the suburban swing voters.

Oh, what are two powerful, ambitious pols like Irvin and Bourne supposed to do?

Apparently, pretend the issue doesn’t exist.

It will be interesting to see how long they can get away with it.

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