Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo formally announced Monday morning that he is running for Illinois governor in 2022.
“This is a decision I came to over the course of the past year as I watched our state deteriorate,” Schimpf said during a virtual press conference. “If we want Illinois to return to its place as the strongest state in the nation, that renewal will come from her people, not her government. My vision for Illinois involves a return to responsible government, safe communities and economic growth through the free market.”
The move comes after Schimpf, a Republican who represented much of southern Illinois in the Senate, confirmed last month he was considering a gubernatorial run.
Schimpf decided not to seek re-election when his Senate term ended in January.
“The reason I didn’t run for re-election was at the time I would have had to file for re-election I was being considered for one of the federal judge vacancies,” Schimpf told the Republic-Times last month. “I think you have no business running for one office if you have your sights set on something else.”
As he began a run for the highest office in the state, Schimpf said many Illinoisans are “no longer proud of the state where they grew up” and have left “because of corruption, high taxes and excessive government regulation.”
Schimpf said the three pillars of his vision will address those issues.
By responsible government, Schimpf said he meant the executive branch should not be afraid of transparency, welcome legislative oversight, rely on local experts to assess the “safety and education of Illinois families” and not propose tax increases “in response to every challenge.”
In regard to safer communities, Schimpf said he would provide “clear and unambiguous” support to law enforcement while noting he understands “inequities and injustices” exist within the criminal justice system.
In terms of a free market, Schimpf cited his experience on the Joint Committee on Administrative rules as evidence that the state imposes too many limitations on businesses, arguing that economic growth should not come through “the expansion of government.”
Schimpf said the state’s problems are formidable, but not insurmountable.
“I’m pledging to you right now that I’m going to work hard, tell the truth and keep my promises,” he said. “But I am also requesting your help as well. I need your help, and together we can renew Illinois. Renewing Illinois will not be easy. It will take trust, leadership and sacrifice, but renewal is possible if we work together and believe in the future of our state.”
In addition to his beliefs, Schimpf said his experience would make him a good governor.
Prior to his involvement in politics, Schimpf served 24 years in the Navy and Marines. He served as both an infantry officer and an attorney for the Marine Corps, retiring in 2013 as Lieutenant Colonel.
In that time, Schimpf worked as chief American advisor in the trial of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and represented the Department of Defense at international negotiations.
He is also an attorney with the law firm of Stumpf & Gutknecht in Columbia.
“More important than all those experiences, however, is the perspective I will bring to the governor’s office,” Schimpf said. “For far too long, we have had Illinois governors who were either career politicians or wealthy corporate executives who couldn’t understand or empathize with the struggles the people of Illinois face. I am not a wealthy executive or career politician. I understand what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck. I know how it feels to wake up in the middle of the night, wondering how my wife and I are going to pay for our kids’ education or what the next property tax increase is going to do to our family budget.”
Before this race, Schimpf’s only statewide election experience came in 2014 when he challenged Democrat Lisa Madigan for Illinois Attorney General. He received approximately 37.8 percent of the vote in that losing effort but said he learned a valuable lesson in the process.
“It doesn’t matter how good your message is, if you don’t have the resources to get it out, you will not be successful,” Schimpf said. “If I did not have the resources to get my message out in the entire state of Illinois, I would not be running for Illinois governor.”
Schimpf is one of only two Republicans, the other being businessman Gary Rabine, who have announced their candidacy for governor ahead of the March 15, 2022, primary so far.
State-level Democrats quickly criticized Schimpf, with Kristina Zahorik, president of the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association, calling him “Rauner 2.0” and “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” per Capitol News Illinois.
“Paul Schimpf has built a facade of being pro-labor and moderate,” Zahorik said. “When given the opportunity to prove that during his short time in the Illinois Senate, he opposed key labor issues like supporting increasing the minimum wage. He also consistently voted to extend the Rauner budget crisis that crippled our state.”
Following his virtual press conference, Schimpf was scheduled to make campaign stops across the state, with his tour culminating in an event Tuesday at Monroe County Courthouse, but those events were delayed by the wintry weather.
On Monday, Schimpf was optimistic about his chances in the race.
“With a lot of hard work, I do expect to be able to win this race,” Schimpf said.