Republicans didn’t bother to recruit a candidate to run against Sen. Tammy Duckworth

Republicans didn’t bother to recruit a candidate to run against Sen. Tammy Duckworth

So far, no Republican of consequence is running against Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Republicans in Illinois and Washington don’t seem to care. | Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Aurora Mayor Irvin is poised to launch his GOP governor bid on Monday, with his campaign lifted by the perception he will get the backing of billionaire Ken Griffin.

WASHINGTON — When Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin announces his bid for governor, expected on Monday, a newly formed statewide Illinois GOP slate is complete with one stunning gap. No Republican with any political heft has been recruited to run against Sen. Tammy Duckworth — and no Republicans care.

Let’s consider the pass Republicans are about to give the Democrat Duckworth as she seeks a second term. What this means to the newborn Illinois GOP ticket is this:

For all the trouble a network of GOP operatives took to line up a slate of folks with experience in government and other substantial credentials, the Illinois Senate nomination, by default, could well go to an election denier who was active in the Trump-fueled Cyber Ninja election audit in Maricopa County, Arizona.

If Irvin wins the June 28 five-way primary — not a given, even if he gets billionaire Ken Griffin to throw in millions to boost his campaign — Irvin might be sharing the top of the ticket with a fringe Senate candidate peddling false election claims.

Here’s the latest:

DUCKWORTH: Drives to get signatures on nominating petitions kicked off last Thursday, with petitions due by March 14. So far, there is no Republican of consequence running against Duckworth.

This recruitment failure is on the National Republican Senatorial Committee, chaired by Sen. Rick Scott of Florida; the state GOP party and big Illinois donors. Multiple sources told me no one bothered to find a credible Republican to run against Duckworth and it does not seem to make a difference to anybody.

I get that Duckworth will be very tough to beat. The Senate is 50-50 and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has better places to spend time and money on, especially with five GOP Senators not running again.

Duckworth had $5.7 million cash-on-hand as of Sept. 30 and her Dec. 31 report will show even more. There are eight people who registered as GOP senate candidates with the Federal Election Commission.

Seven of them show minor-to-no cash on hand as of Sept. 30. The eighth is Robert “Bobby” Piton of Geneva, with a Sept. 30 balance of $84,307, including $25,000 he loaned his campaign.

Who is Piton? In May, the Arizona Republic said he was one of the “key players with links to [the] Arizona Senate’s election audit.” A USA Today story in January 2021 rated election claims he was making false.

Vice News reported last June that Piton was “called as an ‘expert witness’ during one of the sham election fraud hearings held by Rudy Giuliani,” then Trump’s personal attorney.

Piton’s business web site said he is the managing partner of PreActive Investments, LLC, and an investment adviser representative of Total Clarity Wealth Management.

Piton makes this far-fetched claim on his Senate web site: “Fraud has been identified with 100% certainty in… four Battleground States using Geometry.”

Peggy Hubbard, from Belleville, a former police officer and Navy veteran who ran in the 2020 GOP Senate primary, is making another bid.

IRVIN AND GRIFFIN: In politics, perception is one of the most valuable assets a candidate can have.

The only reason Irvin got major media attention from Illinois news outlets when his possible run for governor was floated in December was the suggestion — that morphed into perception — that Griffin would pour some of his millions to help Irvin win the GOP primary. Griffin has vowed to defeat Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The perception that Irvin might be in line to get Griffin’s campaign cash makes his governor bid viable.

Irvin, first elected Aurora mayor on April 4, 2017, is not well known. He is the first Black mayor of the second biggest city in Illinois. His running mate for lieutenant governor will be state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville.

Irvin, an Army veteran and an attorney, is a former prosecutor in Cook and Kane counties.

Griffin’s zeal to defeat Pritzker faced a problem. None of the four men already in the primary — state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia; former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo; and business executives Gary Rabine of Bull Valley and Jesse Sullivan of Petersburg — was seen as capable of beating Pritzker.

Irvin is part of a GOP slate recruited and groomed by a network of Republican operatives who are all alums of former Sen. Mark Kirk’s GOP Senate campaigns.

Leading the Irvin project is Kirk alum Mike Zolnierowicz, a former chief of staff for ex-Gov. Bruce Rauner who worked on the 2020 drive, fueled by Griffin’s millions, to defeat Pritzker’s bid for a graduated income tax.

With Irvin at the top, the GOP slate also consists of former Central District of Illinois U.S. Attorney John Milhiser for secretary of state; state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon for state treasurer; Deerfield attorney Steve Kim for attorney general and McHenry County Auditor Shannon Teresi for comptroller.

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