Illinois State Senator Darren Bailey is the Republican nominee for governor in the upcoming election against incumbent Democrat J.B. Pritzker this November. The quintessential rural American, Bailey spoke with me about his platform in detail, ranging from crime, the economy, and how he plans to serve rural communities like his.
He spoke with me about his prior government experience, the recent Highland Park shooting tragedy, and how he plans to improve the state’s economy if he is elected. Bailey also discussed how the state’s Democratic supermajority prevents a strong political opposition, and why he wants to change that.
Please note that this interview has been edited for grammar, length, and clarity.
Cameron Arcand: Can you introduce yourself to our readers and then also get into what your plan is to tackle crime in the state?
Darren Bailey: My name is Darren Bailey. I live in Southeast Illinois about four hours south of Chicago. So I’ve been married to the love of my life for 35 years. We have four children and 11 grandchildren, and I’ve spent my life farming row crops — corn, soybeans, and wheat. We have a trucking company and an excavating business, and just a few short years ago, I got a little frustrated about the direction of Illinois when we started having grandkids. I realized that the future was bleak for them because of the taxes. The future is a concern for them because of their safety. So I got elected as a state representative in 2019, came in with J.B. Pritzker, and for the first time in Illinois history, the super minority.
So I served for two years as a state [representative]. Shook things up, and made some noise. My state Senator decided to step down, so I was encouraged to run for his place. So the last two years I’ve served as the position of state Senator. When COVID hit and our governor just started locking the state down, I got a little frustrated about it, so I sued him and I won. And I’ve been standing up against the mask mandates and against all these unilateral mandates that he’s been self-imposing. That’s gained us some notoriety that someone would actually stand up and push back. Unfortunately, here in Illinois lawlessness seems to rule the day, especially in Chicago with the state’s attorney, Kim Fox, who number one, refuses to prosecute criminals.
And number two is cleansing the county jails and the prisons within her jurisdictions. She’s just letting people go. In January of 2021, there were two bills passed that are slowly taking effect. One is called the SAFE-T Act. The other is a no cash bail bill where basically you can commit a crime and you’re slapped on the hand, given a court date, and you’re sent to go literally, regardless of whatever you do. If you were to shoot into a crowd, for example, and if it can’t be proven that you were trying to harm one person, then you won’t be held on any bail. It is a mess here, and unfortunately, the Democrats like to…make guns the issue, but I can tell you that in every instance, especially this situation in Highland Park, this young man fell through the cracks at absolutely every level.
Family, school, the civic organizations, and even the local law enforcement we have in Illinois… But unfortunately, Governor Pritzker nor the Democrats who are in control and make no bones about it, are in 100 percent control. They can do anything they want without any Republican pushback or participation.
He was able to acquire things that he shouldn’t have been able to acquire, but because our General Assembly and our governor didn’t follow through or allow our current laws to be followed, things like this are happening here in Illinois. The solutions are really quite obvious. Both of those laws need to be repealed.
We need to roll back and get Illinois out of the sanctuary state status so that we can begin to properly vet many of the people who are coming through the southern border. Many of them are bringing gang violence, drug trafficking, and human trafficking with them. All of this is being hindered by the current laws here in Illinois.
CA: A lot of families are having a hard time paying for their basic necessities now. On the state level though, what’s your economic plan to tackle inflation, if it continues to go in this direction? Or what other plans do you have as the country continues to recover from the consequences of the COVID pandemic and the lockdowns?
DB: The reality is if more money was the answer to our problems, we shouldn’t have any problems in Illinois. So rampant spending, you know, obviously, and irresponsible spending well, that creates inflation and that’s where we’re at. The sad part of it is with all this federal COVID money that Illinois’s been given, we had the ability to pay off many of our debts and the unemployment insurance trust fund. The Democrats and J.B. Pritzker refused to do that.
Instead, they went ahead and just spent the money on other items…We have got to rein in many of our regulations that are, that are hindering business and our tax environment…Illinois needs to start focusing on attracting business. That will bring the people in that will create an economy where people support local businesses and pay taxes with the money they earn. But unfortunately, the business climate in Illinois is not anything like that. They continue to create needless regulations and taxes that are hindering our growth. So the irresponsibility of throwing money at every problem, instead of working for the solution. That’s the problem Illinois has. Until we get that figured out, we’re going to continue to spiral out of control.
CA: When you’re elected, how do you plan to serve those rural communities specifically?
DB: I think that’s the reason I faced so much opposition in the primary because I’ve been very vocal about the fact that Illinois would be better served you know emulating a model much like Indiana does where we spread opportunity across the state and we grow the entire state instead of the Northern part. The reality is that for years, Southern Illinois was served mainly by farming, coal, and oil. And interestingly enough, the Democrats are taxing it out of existence. They’re regulating oil out of existence. And then they turn around and wonder why our energy bills have doubled and why we’re going to experience rolling blackouts and brownouts this summer.
They wondered why gas and diesel now are over $6. It’s because we’re not producing them. We have these natural resources here, and when you make bad decisions, there are consequences. But just as important is the fact that the people in Chicago are frustrated too. They’re not being well represented.
Life for the typical resident in Chicago is much more constricted than it is for people throughout the rest of the state. Their rent, their taxes, their food, and even their gas are a lot more expensive than it is throughout the state because of the needless taxes and regulations that they have. So I think that my model of governing is the exact model that got me here to this place. It’s communicating hope and ideas and a better future to the people… So when they have this guy show up, who’s got this Southern accent, who’s a farmer, who’s four hours south, they seem to be intrigued and they listen.