By Illinois Review
As the presidential campaign season starts to heat up, Illinois Republican Party leaders are beginning to draw lines in the sand, with some expressing their support for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, while others are lining up behind former President Donald Trump, as the country braces for a grueling 2024 election cycle.
In the last three months, DeSantis has made two trips to Illinois – the first being a “law and order” speech in Elmhurst back in February – and during his second visit last month, DeSantis was the keynote speaker at an event co-hosted by the Tazewell and Peoria County Republican organizations, where he spoke about how “woke” policies are destroying our country.
But with political tensions rising between the DeSantis and Trump campaigns – some Illinois Republican Party officials are lining up early behind the popular Florida governor, including Republican national committeeman Richard Porter and former gubernatorial candidate and state central committee member Jeanne Ives.
During a May 25th Facebook post, Porter wrote, “I am down in Miami helping DeSantis with his launch, and I am working the phones and emails to raise first day money for him — could you give today?”
During the 2022 primary, Porter was one of the architects of Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin’s campaign for governor – serving as honorary co-chairman of Irvin’s campaign, where he remained a close advisor and confidante to the Aurora mayor.
Billionaire Ken Griffin, who funded Irvin’s campaign – donated $50 million – but in the end, Irvin would lose the primary to the grassroots-backed candidate by 43 points.
Griffin is also a big supporter of DeSantis, and has given numerous media interviews over the last several months expressing his support for the Florida governor’s presidential campaign. Griffin also stated that it was time for the party to move on from Trump and to focus on the “next generation.”
During Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2020, Griffin donated $500,000 to the president-elect’s inaugural committee.
State central committee member Jeanne Ives is also backing DeSantis – and during an interview in Crain’s Chicago Business on May 30th, Ives said and tweeted, “I’m a DeSantis fan…I like a strong governor with a proven record of accomplishments…Florida has, what, a $21 billion budget surplus…”
Ives also said that she was “not going to let anyone off the hook on COVID,” meaning she was going to hold Trump accountable for some of his actions during the beginning of the pandemic.
Former gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey, who was also interviewed for the Crain’s article – and who beat Irvin by 43 points during the last primary after receiving Trump’s endorsement, posted a message on his Facebook page on May 25th stating, “I am PROUDLY endorsing President Trump again!”
DeSantis garnered national attention for his response during the pandemic and his commitment to keeping Florida open and free – but during the early days of COVID, DeSantis did shut down the state for a period of time – issuing mandates and encouraging residents to wear facial coverings, social distance and to get vaccinated.
During a speech during the early months of the pandemic, DeSantis laid out his plan for Florida residents to get vaccinated, saying,
“Each vaccine requires the individual to take two doses…as more vaccine becomes available, we of course will want to get that into the broader senior community first, and then the broader community at large.”
And DeSantis continued to promote the safety of the vaccines, saying in another speech that “Today, we have three safe and effective vaccines.”
DeSantis also heaped praise on Dr. Fauci in the early days of COVID, saying,
“They are not getting a lot of sleep and they are really focusing on a big country that we have, and uh, from Dr. Birx, to Dr. Fauci….they are really doing a good job…”
DeSantis also promoted social distancing and the wearing of face masks, telling residents that if they are not in a situation where they can “appropriately social distance, wearing the face covering will help you.”
On May 24th, DeSantis announced that he was running for President on Twitter – but unfortunately, the announcement was plagued by glitches and audio issues, making it difficult for people to hear the Florida governor’s big announcement.
DeSantis was widely mocked and the announcement created an embarrassing moment for DeSantis and his campaign team – a nightmare scenario for any political candidate.
Trump, who’s been critical of Fox News, posted a recent Fox News poll to his TruthSocial account that had the former president beating DeSantis by 33 points among Republican Primary voters – as Trump continues to dominate the national polls and maintains a sizable double-digit lead over the Florida governor.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy maintained that he’s going to remain neutral during the presidential primary election, but on March 23rd, Tracy and the IL GOP traveled down to Naples, Florida to host a private reception featuring former US Attorney General Bill Baar, who served as AG under the George HW Bush and Donald Trump presidential administrations.
Baar remains critical of Trump, and in November, he published a scathing opinion piece in the New York Post, writing,
“Unless the rest of the party goes along with him, he will burn the whole house down by leading ‘his people’ out of the GOP. Trump’s willingness to destroy the party if he does not get his way is not based on principle, but on his own supreme narcissism. His egoism makes him unable to think of a political party as anything but an extension of himself – a cult of personality.”
Last November, House Republican leader Jim Durkin – a close ally of Tracy, announced his resignation as leader after overseeing humiliating losses during the general election – and in media interviews, Durkin attempted to place all of the blame on the 45th President of the United States Donald Trump.
“As long as we continue to say that we are the party of Trump and that we have to abide by the party principles in the platform, 100% we’re gonna continue down this path of losing.”
The presidential primary will take place next Spring, and the 2024 Republican National Convention will be held from July 15-18 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.