Former State Sen. Paul Schimpf opened his Monday morning Zoom press conference by simply stating: “My name is Paul Schimpf and I am running for Illinois governor."
Schimpf, a Republican who represented Illinois' 58th Senate District for the last four years, said he had not spent his life planning to run for governor, but he came to the decision to run after watching the state deteriorate over the past couple of years.
Schimpf announced his 2022 gubernatorial campaign via videoconference at 10 a.m., beginning a day of traveling the state with planned stops in Algonquin, Rock Island and Morris Monday and Decatur, Morris and his hometown of Waterloo Tuesday.
“Illinoisans are in many cases no longer proud of the state where they grew up. We’ve all watched while our friends, neighbors and relatives have fled our state because of corruption, high taxes and excessive government regulation. This is simply unacceptable,” Schimipf said during the press conference.
His vision for Illinois includes a return to "responsible" government, safe communities, and economic growth through the free market. He added that a responsible government is not afraid of transparency and recognized how increasing taxes affects its citizens. Safe communities include a clear support for law enforcement and an equitable criminal justice system, he said. He said Illinois has the talent and resources for renewing economic growth.
Schimpf attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1993. He served as an infantry officer and was stationed in Camp Pendleton, California and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In 1997, Schimpf was selected to participate in the Marine Corps Law Education Program and he returned to Illinois to attend Southern Illinois University School of Law in Carbondale. In 2005, he served as the lead American attorney adviser to the Iraqi prosecutors in the trial of Saddam Hussein.
Beginning in 2004, Schimpf was a judge advocate, or military attorney, at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California. There, he served as the head prosecutor, supervising other attorneys and litigating drug, sexual assault and attempted murder cases, according to his campaign.
He was elected state senator in 2016 and did not run for re-election in 2020. He said his proudest accomplishment as state senator was his work with a higher education working group that produced legislative changes such as AIM High grants, which aim to provide Illinois’ highest performing students with the means to remain in Illinois for college.
“I spent most of my adult life serving our country as a United States Marine. I no longer wear my Marine Corps uniform, but that doesn’t change who I am,” Schimpf said. “I believe you have a duty to serve your country, state and your community.”
He said he is not a career politician or wealthy business executive, but he does understand what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck and worry about things like providing a college education for your children.
Schimpf was born in Illinois at Scott Air Force Base and returned to Illinois after his military career. “Illinois is the home I love,” he said Monday.
He is an of counsel attorney with the law firm of Stumpf & Gutknecht P.C. in Columbia, meaning he is not an equity partner in the firm.
He touched on a number of issues that have been lynchpins of Republican legislative dissent in recent years and weeks, noting a governor should “give clear unambiguous support to the law enforcement community.”
He also addressed Illinois’ tax burden, quoting Ronald Reagan and stating Illinois needs a governor who “understands those day-to-day challenges that we all face” and who will “stand up to the entrenched special interest groups that have done so much damage to our state.”
“As I start this campaign, I am going to make a pledge to work hard, tell the truth, and keep my promises," Schimpf said. "But I am also requesting your help, as well. Together, we can renew Illinois. Renewing Illinois will not be easy. It will take trust, leadership, and sacrifice. But make no mistake, renewal is possible if we work together and believe in the future of our state."
While Schimpf tied himself to popular Republican icon Reagan, Illinois Democrats quickly sought to tie Schimpf to a less popular, more recent Republican elected official — ex-Gov. Bruce Rauner, who presided over a two-year budget impasse that saw the state’s backlog of unpaid bills balloon to over $16 billion.
Mary Morrissey, Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Illinois, referred to Schimpf as a “Rauner/Trump acolyte” in a statement.
“Schimpf was a consistent vote for Bruce Rauner’s catastrophic agenda, even going along with his attempts to continue the historic budget crisis that resulted in Illinois going 736 days without a budget,” Morrissey said. “He supported Donald Trump’s re-election, even after the former president failed at his central task of keeping Americans safe by lying about the dangers of the coronavirus and instead promoting conspiracy theories.”
Schimpf’s biography touted his vote against the compromise budget, which raised the state’s flat income tax and ended the two-year budget impasse in 2017.
Schimpf, however, emphasized an “every man” image, distancing himself from the billionaire Pritzker and multimillionaire Rauner.
He said he expects to do better than he did in his last statewide run in 2014, when he challenged former Attorney General Lisa Madigan as the Republican candidate. In that election, he lost by nearly 800,000 votes, gaining 37.8% of the vote.
“I did not have enough financial resources to get my message out,” he said. “That is one of the lessons that I learned when I ran statewide in 2014 for Illinois attorney general is that 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.”
His candidate committee, Citizens for Schimpf, had $149,529 cash on hand as of Feb. 15, according to campaign database Illinois Sunshine.
The primary election for statewide office is scheduled for March 15, and Schimpf joins businessman Gary Rabine, who is chairman and founder of the paving, roofing and snow removal company Rabine Group, in announcing their candidacies for governor.
— Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.