Calling Darren Bailey “the man to take on and defeat one of the worst governors in America,” former President Donald Trump on Saturday endorsed the downstate farmer in the GOP gubernatorial primary race — a boost in the waning days of what has become a heated and expensive contest.
“Darren is a fearless supporter of the Second Amendment and a tireless champion of religious liberty,” Trump said at a “Save America” rally in Mendon. “He will crack down on the violent crime that is devouring our Democrat-run cities and restore the state of Illinois to greatness. Darren has my complete and total endorsement.”
Taking the stage briefly — and nabbing a photo opp — Bailey voiced his support for a Trump 2024 presidential run.
“I’ve made a promise to President Trump that in 2024, Illinois will roll the red carpet out for him because Illinois will be ready for President Trump,” Bailey, a state senator from Louisville, said to cheers.
Trump’s Illinois rally was intended to boost U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, a Trump loyalist and member of the House Freedom Caucus whom he endorsed in January.
Miller faces U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis in the newly drawn 15th Congressional District, pitting two Republicans against each other after a Democratic-led redistricting process. Trump framed the race as MAGA versus RINO, Republican In Name Only, since Davis proposed an independent commission to investigate Jan. 6.
Bailey had been seeking Trump’s endorsement for months. The state senator met with Trump last year and snapped a photo with the former president at an April fundraiser. That photo was blasted on Bailey’s Facebook page — and later was used in ads paid for by the Democratic Governors’ Association.
Trump has been a factor in the race, with candidates Jesse Sullivan, Gary Rabine, Paul Schimpf and Max Solomon all campaigning on their support. Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin has lacked clarity on whether he supports Trump. In May, WTTW-TV reported on text messages it obtained in which he called Trump “an idiot” and a “bigoted racist.” Irvin has said he doesn’t remember sending the text messages.
And a Sun-Times/WBEZ poll conducted on June 7 and 8 of 677 likely Republican primary voters found 52% of respondents said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who supported Trump, while 36% said it wouldn’t make a difference. Another 8% said they were less likely to vote for a candidate who supported the former president.
With just two days to go before the primary, the endorsement may not make a huge dent. Bailey for weeks has been leading multiple polls by double digits.
It could make a difference in the general election, as Gov. J.B. Pritzker will use the endorsement against Bailey, should he prevail. Hours before Trump’s rally, and in anticipation of some roasting, Pritzker’s campaign blasted out a video of the governor calling Trump “a narcissist who values power over principle and seeks out darkness over light.”
The campaign said Trump’s visit was an attempt to prop up far-right extremists running for office — even though Pritzker himself paid for ads to help boost Bailey’s campaign with ads calling him “too conservative.”
“We stand with the people who barred the doors of the Capitol on Jan. 6th – not the ones who were trying to knock them down,” Pritzker said in the video. “And any candidate who refuses to speak out against Trump’s Big Lie has no business running for office. Not in Illinois.”
Trump took many jabs at Pritzker over his COVID-19 mandates, calling him a “disaster” and blaming him for everything from crime to people leaving the state. The two have endured a years long public feud.
And Pritzker has been positioning himself for a potential 2024 presidential bid, which is likely prompting further ire from Trump.
Trump has endorsed about 200 primary candidates this year, and candidates he’s endorsed in contested races have won more times than they’ve lost, according to a New York Times analysis. But he’s also had some major blunders, including in Georgia.
The visit came a day after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, aided by the three conservative justices Trump nominated. Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett all sided with the majority opinion to bring an end to the constitutional right to have an abortion.
Rally-goers chanted “Thank you Trump” during the rally, with one person holding a sign that simply read, “Life won.”
Trump called the decision “a victory for the rule of law and above all, a victory for life.”