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Aurora mayor to join Republican race for governor, sources say

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AURORA - Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin will join the Republican primary contest for governor as early as Monday, completing a slate aimed at gaining financial backing from billionaire Ken Griffin to challenge Democrats who hold all statewide offices, sources said Friday.

Irvin, the first Black mayor of Illinois’ second largest city, would be the fifth announced candidate for the GOP nomination in the June 28 primary, with the winner taking on wealthy first-term Gov. J.B. Pritzker in the November general election.

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Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin introduces Governor J.B. Pritzker at a press conference to discuss COVID-19 vaccination equity on March 2, 2021.

But unlike the four previous announced contenders, Irvin’s candidacy is expected to attract the support of Griffin, the state’s wealthiest person and the CEO and founder of Citadel financial group. Griffin, an ardent foe of Pritzker, had previously promised to go “all in” on an effort to defeat the Democratic governor.

Sources familiar with Irvin said he will go public with his plans to run next week, with the announcement tentatively slated for Monday to coincide with Martin Luther King Day.

Irvin’s name first began to surface, along with talk of a slate for Republicans to consider, last month with the potential of funding by Griffin to offset the financial largesse of Pritzker, a billionaire heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune.

Griffin’s office has had no comment on the slate’s formation.

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The slate has taken shape in recent days with announcements by former U.S. Attorney John Milhiser for secretary of state, state Rep. Tom Demmer of Dixon for state treasurer, attorney Steve Kim for attorney general and McHenry County Auditor Shannon Teresi for comptroller.

The slate is expected to be completed with Irvin, who was elected as Aurora’s first Black mayor in 2017, and state Rep. Avery Bourne for lieutenant governor. Bourne, 29, a three-term lawmaker from Downstate Morrisonville, is viewed as a future GOP star.

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Sources said Griffin has not been satisfied with the prospects of the four previously announced contenders for the GOP governor nomination — businessmen Gary Rabine of Bull Valley and Jesse Sullivan of Petersburg, state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo.

House Speaker Chris Welch discusses the upcoming legislative session and 2022 elections in an interview with Lee Enterprises

Supporters say Irvin, 51, could give Republicans a chance to lure Black voters away from Democrats in the general election — if he wins the Republican nomination.

But Irvin would have to survive a likely contentious primary where his views in support of immigrant rights may be at odds with voters backing a harder line supported by former President Donald Trump. In addition, Irvin has voted in Democratic primaries in the recent past.

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