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McLean County Republicans host governor, Senate candidates and proxies at a Bloomington event

Republican candidate for governor Jesse Sullivan, left, with Bloomington City Council member Sheila Montney, right, at the McLean County Republicans' Lincoln Reagan Dinner on Friday night.
McLean County Republicans
Republican candidate for governor Jesse Sullivan, left, with Bloomington City Council member Sheila Montney, right, at the McLean County Republicans' Lincoln Reagan Dinner on Friday night.

McLean County Republicans heard a largely united front from GOP candidates for governor and U.S. Senate on Friday night, touting support for law enforcement, reformed government and lower taxes, while ripping Democratic handling of education and the pandemic.

These messages are important to voters well beyond the GOP faithful, according to state Rep. Ryan Spain of Peoria. Spain told attendees of the McLean County Republicans Lincoln Reagan dinner that focus on these issues was a proven recipe for success. He was one of many who stressed that unity on these issues, along with wholehearted engagement from the entire party, was needed to overcome Democrats in the Nov. 8 election.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jesse Sullivan said his work as a civilian intelligence officer with the U.S. Army setting up police forces in Afghanistan galvanized what he describes as a calling to serve.

“I’ve been around the world to do this work — to spread democracy, freedom, capitalism. But my own home is falling apart," he said.

Sullivan, of Petersburg, was the lone gubernatorial candidate to appear in person. Gary Rabine was scheduled to attend, but missed the event because of flight delays, according to a spokesman. Darren Bailey’s wife, Cindy, attended on his behalf, and Paul Schimpf sent Carolyn Schofield, his lieutenant governor pick.

WGLT was not allowed to record the event but conducted interviews afterward.

Sullivan described his candidacy as a calling from God, and he said he believed the key to solving the states problems was deepening our relationship with God. He says he doesn’t seek endorsements from politicians, but would rather receive support from law enforcement. Outgoing McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage has endorsed Sullivan, and appeared in one of his campaign ads along with other sheriffs. Sullivan said he got to know Sandage through his safe streets plan, which aims to support law enforcement and seeks repeal of the Pretrial Fairness Act signed by Gov. J.B Pritzker. Among other provisions, the act would eliminate cash bail in January 2023.

Bailey touted her husband’s independence, work ethic and willing to challenge unfairness. Bailey has sued over Pritzker’s mask mandate, and the representative was ejected from the House floor over refusal to wear a mask. Schofield painted Schimpf as a someone to bring the party and the state together. She touted the Waterloo resident and Naval Academy graduate’s plan to improve Illinois government. The plan includes parents rights in both schooling and healthcare, as well as support of law enforcement, lowering taxes and restoring faith in government.

U.S. Senate

Attendees also heard from U.S. Senate candidates Peggy Hubbard of Belleville, Jimmy Lee Tillman II of Chicago and Kathy Salvi of Mundelein, all vying for the opportunity to face Democrat Tammy Duckworth in November.

Hubbard, a Navy veteran, former police officer and IRS analyst, says she’s visited all of Illinois’ 102 counties in her quest. A Black woman, she said the Ferguson riots shocked her off the “Democratic plantation,” and led her to become involved.

Tillman, sporting a cowboy hat, said former president Donald Trump’s America First agenda was the cure for a misguided education system. Likening the upcoming election to a war, he said, “The fight right now is for the souls of our children here in the state of Illinois and in America.”

Salvi, the wife of Al Salvi, a former member of the Illinois House and candidate for secretary of state, talked about restoring the state’s population loss and business climate.

“I look forward to the day when people when will flock from Illinois not flee from Illinois.“ Nationally, she criticized an “unprotected,” southern border, as well a the chaos around the exit of US forces from Afghanistan.

The primary is June 28.

Jim Stahly Jr. is a correspondent with WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.