To Endorse or NOT to Endorse in The Primary Election… THAT is The REAL Question

Written by Nancy Hayes

Recent news seems to have fired up some grassroots and even maybe some conservative GOP leaders. The question proposed recently is this: should the Illinois GOP endorse or not endorse candidates in the primary?

In free and fair elections, why not just let the voters decide? Why would the Illinois GOP want to endorse in the primary if we are all, in fact, for free and fair elections? What would be the REAL reason why the Illinois GOP would want to endorse in the primary?

Isn’t the whole purpose of a primary election to narrow down the field of candidates or nominees for political parties in the general election?

It’s interesting to note that currently, candidates are endorsed in the primary by political parties in only six states: Colorado, Connecticut, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, and Utah. In North Dakota, a candidate can be added to the primary ballot via an endorsement from the political party’s convention. However, in New York, the party designations can be made by a party’s state committee. Did I mention that most of these states are very blue?

Please tell me the Illinois GOP doesn’t really want us to follow in New York’s footsteps. What’s next–outlawing gas stoves?


Maybe it would be good to first step back and look at the data from the last primary for statewide office. Let’s examine the 2022 primary, especially the governor’s race, shall we? Maybe the data can help us decide whether the Illinois GOP should endorse in a primary or not.

Back on January 17, 2022, this announcement was made:

“I’m Richard Irvin, I’m running for Governor of Illinois, and with your help we will take our state back.”

In an article published online by NBC 5 Chicago, Mary Ann Ahern stated,

“Irvin’s entry into the race is seen as a signal from the GOP establishment that it does not believe the other four candidates are capable of defeating Pritzker.”

Well, at the time, there were actually five other candidates running for Governor in Illinois in the primary: State Senator Darren Bailey, Paul Schimpf, Jesse Sullivan, Gary Rabine, and Max Solomon.

There were endorsements.

Some of you may recall, Richard Irvin’s Gubernatorial Campaign released a list of 60 endorsements it received, with quite a few coming from the Illinois Republican Party. It wasn’t the entire GOP, but several State Central and Township Committeemen did endorse him.

Included on the list were Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin and other GOP leaders and Committeemen including Edgar Alvaredo, Barry Bebart, Chuck Hernandez, Mark Hosty, Brad Stephens, Kerri Urbanski,  Sean Morrison, Jim Zay, Kathy Hilton, Jay Reyes, Lynn O’Brien, and Richard Porter.

Looking back, it was certainly a large list of Illinois GOP leaders that supported Irvin, but it still wasn’t an endorsement from the entire Illinois Republican party. After all, other Illinois GOP leaders endorsed Darren Bailey and the other candidates for Governor. In fact, if you recall, Darren Bailey received an endorsement from Jeanne Ives, Illinois Family Action, the Fraternal Order of Police, and even one from President Donald J. Trump.

Bailey won the primary with 57.5% of the vote

We can’t say there weren’t individual endorsements from the Illinois GOP, but again, that’s still a far cry from the entire Republican party endorsing one candidate in the primary. The 2022 primary allowed voters to decide who the Republican nominee would be for the general election. We, the people voted and the data overwhelmingly showed 57.5% of the voters (458,102 voters) wanted Darren Bailey to represent them as Governor in the general election.

How many votes did Richard Irvin receive, you ask? Irvin garnered 15% of the votes or 119,592 votes. That’s a difference of 338,510 votes. In fact, Richard Irvin did not even win a single county out of 102. Bailey, on the other hand, took 100 of 102 counties in the 2022 primary. Jesse Sullivan and Paul Schimpf won ONE county each out of 102. In fact, Jesse Sullivan had a stronger showing in Illinois overall than Richard Irvin, even though he didn’t garner 60 endorsements from the Illinois GOP.

Now, imagine if the state GOP as a whole PARTY decided to endorse Richard Irvin for Governor? Would that have made a difference in the 2022 primary?

According to Patrick Pfingsten in a May 11, 2023 piece from Illinoize, when asked about the Illinois GOP supporting ONE candidate in the primary, Committeeman Aaron Del Mar, former candidate for Lt. Governor in 2022 said,

“I’m 100% opposed. This is a smack in the face of the grassroots groups in our party.”

Committeeman Aaron Del Mar is right! It certainly is a SMACK in the FACE of the GRASSROOTS!

Just a thought, but I believe many Conservative Republicans in Illinois still support the Republican Party platform. You know, the platform that is pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, and strong on other important issues such as fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, and LESS government.

In fact, according to a past article in the Chicago Sun-Times, State Senator Bailey in a Tweet said what most Conservatives seemed to be thinking at the time when so many Illinois GOP leaders came out in support of Richard Irvin during the primary:

“Not surprised to see the establishment already cuddling up with a career Democrat like Irvin. Some people are willing to throw away a few principles for a few bucks.”

Bailey went on to add,

“We need a nominee who is actually a Republican and supports the platform.”

Even candidate Sullivan added that voters deserved “a true conservative political outsider who can lead and make Illinois strong.”

Some in the Illinois GOP might believe Republicans can only win in Illinois if we appeal to disgruntled Democrats and moderate independents. Maybe THAT’S why they supported Irvin for Governor in the 2022 primary, but 338,510 voters disagreed.

You may be asking yourself, “Did the primary and Illinois GOP endorsements come down to MONEY?”

Flashback to the eve of the primary and this NBC News headline: “Epic Failure: Inside the Illinois GOP’s $50 million primary debacle”

That pretty much sums it up: $50 million.

Then came the finger-pointing, blaming Conservatives, blaming MAGA…

Even the former Illinois Republican Party chair Pat Brady, who worked for Gary Rabine’s campaign, stated,

“This (was) the biggest debacle I’ve ever seen. It’s the biggest screw-up I’ve ever seen and the biggest waste of money I’ve ever seen.”

When you go back and follow the money, the 2022 primary came down to the pocketbooks of Richard Uihlein versus Ken Griffin. Those were the top donors, except I don’t think you will find any single donor who donated more to a single candidate in the 2022 primary in Illinois as Ken Griffin did. Griffin spent over $50 MILLION!!!!

Even State Representative Blaine Wilhour (R-Louisville), a member of the Illinois Freedom Caucus stated,

“It’s the most epic political failure of all time. It’s a total repudiation of political establishment from the voters.”

But what did they expect? After all, didn’t Richard Irvin vote Democrat in the Primaries in 2014, 2016, and 2020?

Did those members of the Illinois GOP who endorsed Irvin SERIOUSLY think a candidate who voted as a Democrat in 3 previous primaries could ACTUALLY win the Republican nomination or was that the money talking?

Brady, the former state GOP chair, stated, “This was so bad and so arrogant and so deceitful to the Republican voters what Mike Z (Zolnierowicz) did running this, if you’re a Republican you should be furious with these guys.”


Of course, some Republicans might have agreed at the time with what Rep. Blaine Wilhour added,

“That’s how tone-deaf the Republican Party in the state of Illinois has been. They were so tone-deaf on this thing they thought the only chance they had of winning was to become more like Democrats.”

I highly doubt that if you surveyed Illinois GOP supporters or even the grassroots they would say we should become more like the Democrats – especially when it comes to budgets, deficit spending, and increased taxes. Otherwise, why would so many people be migrating OUT of Illinois? In an article published by Illinois Policy on March 14, 2022, Illinois reported the largest outmigration of residents of ANY state during 2021. So, unless you consider states like Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee moderate, I don’t think those residents that left Illinois support Democrat or moderate policies, otherwise they wouldn’t be moving out!


It seems that IF the Illinois GOP did endorse a candidate, he or she would get some preferential use of the state party’s postage discount. So, if the GOP did in fact, as a WHOLE, endorse a candidate, then that candidate’s campaign would save several thousands of dollars in postage. Didn’t that happen in the primary? Yes. The Illinois GOP paid for postage for several mailers for Irvin’s campaign.

So, in summary, the Illinois GOP didn’t “endorse” Irvin for Governor, but several County Chairmen and Committeemen did. The Illinois GOP didn’t “endorse” Irvin for Governor, but his campaign received the party’s postage discount.

In essence, the unwritten Illinois GOP policy to endorse WAS implemented in the last statewide election for Governor of Illinois.

To endorse or NOT to endorse in the primary is the question, but it seems to me we already have data and an answer from 2022. In fact, we have 338,510 pieces of data, thanks to Illinois voters.

Are endorsements effective? They can be if the candidate has a loyal following. Did Darren Bailey have a loyal following? Yes. Does Donald Trump have a loyal following? You bet.

Endorsements don’t dictate the outcome of an election. Voters do. In the case of the 2022 primary and the race for Governor of Illinois, it was 338,510 voters who mattered most in the end, not 60 GOP endorsements.

In the end, maybe Representative Blaine Wilhour of the Illinois Freedom Caucus was right. The Illinois GOP shouldn’t be so tone-deaf as to think we can only win if we become more like Democrats. The Illinois GOP also shouldn’t be so tone-deaf in the primary and think they should endorse ONE candidate.