Republican governor candidate Darren Bailey likened Chicago to an “unruly child” Thursday and said he considers the city he has frequently referred to as a “hellhole” is part of his family in the way “I consider all of Illinois my family.”
Bailey, appearing before the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board’s endorsement session of Illinois candidates for governor, also said he wanted to “clarify” comments he’s made previously about former President Donald Trump. While he welcomed Trump’s pre-primary endorsement and had previously said there was “no” daylight between him and Trump, Bailey said he was speaking of a bustling economy under the Republican former chief executive’s leadership.
“Honored to have his endorsement, obviously, but he’s not on the ballot. I’m on the ballot,” Bailey said, adding that Illinois was his “focus.”
Asked if the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol has shown Trump’s culpability in the insurrection, Bailey said, “I’m not educated enough or informed enough to give you an answer on that.”
“I am 150% ingrained in Illinois. That’s Washington. That’s national politics,” said Bailey, who said the constitutional transition from Trump “was followed” and Democrat Joe Biden “is president.”
A state senator from downstate Xenia, Bailey has sought to make headway with voters in Chicago during the general election campaign while having to reconcile with actions and comments he’s made as a candidate and lawmaker. In Springfield, he backed legislation that would have separated Chicago from the rest of the state. And during the primary and after winning the nomination, he’s repeatedly labeled Chicago a “hellhole.”
In recent weeks, Bailey moved into the 875 North Michigan Avenue building, formerly the John Hancock Center, as he spends more time in the state’s most populous area. And he was asked if he wanted to retract his “hellhole” comments, but did not do so.
“Raising children. When we had the unruly child, we dealt with it. Said, ‘this is a problem,’” Bailey said. “The family. Family. I consider all of Illinois my family. I consider Chicago my family and I want to get Chicago fixed and there’s other parts of Illinois that have issues, too. Let’s address it. Let’s deal with it. Let’s unify.”
In the hourlong interview with the editorial board, attended along with Libertarian candidate Scott Schluter of Marion, Bailey demonstrated several inconsistencies between his positions and his attacks on first-term Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Bailey, who has campaigned heavily on the issue of crime and has warned of the potential effects of cashless bail under provisions of the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today law, or the SAFE-T Act, that go into effect next year, said “we need funding so that we can put police on the streets.”
But moments later, he chided Pritzker’s governance by asking, “So why is every problem always met with the idea that we need more funding, that we need to increase taxes?”
Bailey, who opposes abortion except in cases where the life of the mother is in danger, has played down his views before a broader general electorate. He said he would push for a restoration of a law requiring parental notification if a minor seeks an abortion, but did not mention another goal to end taxpayer-subsidized abortions for poor women.
Instead, given the likelihood of large Democratic legislative majorities that enshrined a woman’s right to an abortion in state law, Bailey said if elected governor that “women are well protected here in the state” and that “nothing is going to change with the abortion laws.”
He accused Pritzker of using abortion as “fearmongering” among the electorate.
“So why are we focused on things that are dividing us?” he asked of Pritzker.
But Bailey also has voiced support for the repeal of the SAFE-T Act, even though the legislature’s expected makeup also makes that highly doubtful.
Pritzker has accused Bailey and his allies of “fearmongering” for contending the cashless bail provision that takes effect Jan. 1 will create a “hellish nightmare.” Still, Bailey said the concept of cashless bail for accused suspects of nonviolent crimes should be discussed.
“I think that conversation needs to be had,” he said, adding that was “maybe the intention of the SAFE-T Act to begin with but it wound up being a one-size fits all.”
Bailey, a gun rights supporter, said he hasn’t “seen any proof to suggest” that guns brought into Illinois and Chicago from Indiana and its more lax gun laws are part of the city’s violent crime problem, even though various studies have shown that is the case.
And he sought to divert the discussion from out-of-state firearms to raise a national issue with Illinois overtones to question why Pritzker isn’t “working with the president to … get our border secure.”
“Because we all know that sex trafficking, gun trafficking, drug trafficking, gang violence is all on the up and I think that we address that problem there, and then, yes, start having this conversation about where these guns are.”
Pritzker chose not to participate in the endorsement session, saying the Tribune Editorial Board has “consistently” been unfair to him. Pritzker did not participate in the editorial board’s 2018 general election endorsement session, though he did in that year’s Democratic primary.
Tribune’s Jeremy Gorner contributed from Springfield.