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Seeks to differentiate self from last two big-money governors

SPRINGFIELD – Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, who spent four years representing the 58th District and was the Republican Party’s candidate for attorney general in 2014, announced Monday he will run for governor in 2022.

Schimpf made the announcement via videoconference at 10 a.m., beginning a day of traveling the state with planned stops in Algonquin, Rock Island and Morris Monday and Decatur, Morris and his hometown of Waterloo Tuesday.

In his announcement, Schimpf sought to distance himself from Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker on both issues of policy and life experience.

“My vision for Illinois involves a return to responsible government, safe communities and economic growth in a free market,” he said. “We need a governor who welcomes and insists upon legislative oversight of his administration.”

A U.S. Naval Academy graduate and Marine Corps veteran, Schimpf was an outspoken advocate for veterans in the Senate, serving as minority party spokesperson on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. In 2005, Schimpf served as the chief American advisor in the trial of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps.

A biography distributed by Schimpf’s campaign emphasized that he wrote an article in 2004 for the Military Law Review on “the need to establish a victim-victim advocate evidentiary privilege within the Department of Defense” in an effort to improve treatment of sexual assault victims. Those practices were adopted in 2012.

Beginning in 2004, Schimpf was a judge advocate, or military attorney, at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, Calif. There, he served as the head prosecutor, supervising other attorneys and litigating drug, sexual assault and attempted murder cases, according to his campaign.

He was elected to the state Senate in 2017, retiring in January ahead of his run for governor. He said his proudest accomplishment as state senator was his work with a higher education working group that produced legislative changes such as AIM High grants, which aim to provide Illinois’ highest performing students with the means to remain in Illinois for college.

He is an of counsel attorney with the law firm of Stumpf & Gutknecht P.C. in Columbia, meaning he is not an equity partner in the firm. 

“More important than all those experiences, however, is the perspective that I will bring to the governor's office,” he said. “For far too long, we have had literally governors who were either career politicians or wealthy corporate executives who couldn't understand or empathize with the struggles that the people of Illinois face.”

He touched on a number of issues that have been lynchpins of Republican legislative dissent in recent years and weeks, noting a governor should “give clear unambiguous support to the law enforcement community.”

He also addressed Illinois’ tax burden, quoting Ronald Reagan and stating Illinois needs a governor who “understands those day-to-day challenges that we all face” and who will “stand up to the entrenched special interest groups that have done so much damage to our state.”

“I know what it feels like to wake up in the middle of the night wondering how my wife and I are going to pay for our kids’ education, or what the next property tax increase is going to do to our family budget,” he said.

While Schimpf tied himself to popular Republican icon Reagan, Illinois Democrats quickly sought tie Schimpf to a less popular, more recent Republican elected official – ex-Gov. Bruce Rauner, who presided over a two-year budget impasse which saw the state’s backlog of unpaid bills balloon to over $16 billion.

Mary Morrissey, Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Illinois, referred to Schimpf as a “Rauner/Trump acolyte” in a statement.

“Schimpf was a consistent vote for Bruce Rauner’s catastrophic agenda, even going along with his attempts to continue the historic budget crisis that resulted in Illinois going 736 days without a budget,” Morrissey said. “He supported Donald Trump’s re-election, even after the former President failed at his central task of keeping Americans safe by lying about the dangers of the coronavirus and instead promoting conspiracy theories.”

Schimpf’s biography touted his vote against the compromise budget which raised the state’s flat income tax and ended the two-year budget impasse in 2017.

Kristina Zahorik, president of the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association, referred to Schimpf as “Rauner 2.0” and “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

“Paul Schimpf has built a facade of being pro-labor and moderate,” Zahorik said in a statement. “When given the opportunity to prove that during his short time in the Illinois Senate, he opposed key labor issues like supporting increasing the minimum wage. He also consistently voted to extend the Rauner budget crisis that crippled our state.”

Schimpf, however, emphasized an “every man” image, distancing himself from the billionaire Pritzker and multi-millionaire Rauner.

He said he expects to do better than he did in his last statewide run in 2014, when he challenged former Attorney General Lisa Madigan as the Republican candidate. In that election, he lost by nearly 800,000 votes, gaining 37.8 percent of the vote.

“I did not have enough financial resources to get my message out,” he said. “That is one of the lessons that I learned when I ran statewide in 2014 for Illinois attorney general is that it doesn't matter how good your message is, if you don't have the resources to get it out, you will not be successful.”

His candidate committee, Citizens for Schimpf, had $149,529 cash on hand as of Feb. 15, according to campaign database Illinois Sunshine.

Still, Schimpf said, money can only go so far, and he cited the failed Democratic presidential campaign of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“You can't buy elections with money,” he said. “I know that Gov. Pritzker has a lot of resources. I don't expect to be able to match him dollar for dollar, but I do expect to be able to get my message out with a lot of hard work. I do expect to be able to win this race.”

The primary election for statewide office is scheduled for March 15, and Schimpf joins businessman Gary Rabine, who is chairman and founder of the paving, roofing and snow removal company Rabine Group, in announcing their candidacies for governor.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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