Saying he wants to return Illinois to its status as the strongest state in the nation, former southern Illinois state Sen. Paul Schimpf made it official Monday, tossing his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination for Illinois governor.
Schimpf, 50, a conservative Republican from Waterloo (Monroe County) was a one-term state senator in the 58th District from 2016-2020, declining to run for reelection in November. The seat is now held by state Sen. Terry Bryant of Murphysboro.
"I promise I will work hard, tell the truth, and keep my promises," he said Monday morning, in a virtual news conference with reporters to officially kick off his campaign.
"This is decision I came to over the past year, as I watched the state deteriorate. We've watched our friends, neighbors and relatives leave the state ... I'm not going to stand by idly while our state government squanders its opportunities."
Schimpf is the first GOP candidate to announce for governor. Others who have been mentioned as possible candidates include U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, state Rep. Darren Bailey of Xenia and Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts, who is also the Republican National Committee finance chairman.
"Illinois needs a governor who understands the day-to-day challenges that we all face," Schimpf said, "a governor who will live by the same rules that the rest of us follow, and, most importantly, a governor who will stand up to the entrenched special interest groups who have severely damaged our state."
Schimpf, who attended the U.S. Naval Academy and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1993, was an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps until he retired in 2013. He attended the Southern Illinois University School of Law. In 2005, he was deployed to Iraq to be the chief American adviser to prosecutors in the Saddam Hussein trial.
Schimpf was the Republican candidate for Illinois Attorney General in 2014, ultimately losing to Lisa Madigan. When state Sen. Dave Luechtefeld of the 58th district did not run for reelection in 2016, Schimpf won both the GOP primary and then the general election, over former Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon.
Responding to a question Monday about his campaign for Attorney General, Schimpf acknowledged he did not have the financial support at the time to make a successful run.
"It doesn't matter how good your message is if you don't have the resources to get it out," he said. "(But) if I didn't have the resources (now), I wouldn't have launched this campaign."
Schimpf added he knows the wealthy Gov. J.B. Pritzker has a lot of resources and that he won't "match him dollar for dollar."
Asked how he would have handled the pandemic differently that Pritzker, Schimp said he didn't have time to answer that question fully, but one thing he would have done differently is involve the legislature much more.
"I would not have tried to go it alone," he declared. "I would have welcomed feedback from the General Assembly. That is the number one difference."
Schimpf also said that local experts, not state bureaucrats, are in the best position to recognize the safety needs of Illinois families.
After his Zoom news conference, Schimpf embarked on a two-day news tour around Illinois, with stops at Algonquin, Rock Island, Morris, Decatur and Mount Vernon, and ending Tuesday at the Monroe County courthouse in Waterloo.