SPRINGFIELD, IL — Candidates vying to unseat Gov. J.B. Pritzker are criticizing his continued unilateral approach to the state’s COVID-19 response.
Pritzker, a Democrat, has been issuing executive orders for 18 months. Democrats, who hold veto-proof majorities in both of the state’s legislative chambers, have not objected.
On Thursday, Pritzker ordered all health care employees, educators and college students to get vaccinated. He reissued a statewide indoor mask mandate that starts Monday. Asked if he’d call the legislature back to deal with the issue, Pritzker wouldn’t commit.
The announced Democratic challenger, Beverly Miles, had previously said she opposes vaccine mandates, but as a nurse she said she sees the uptick in COVID-19 cases and now supports the mandate. However, she said the governor is wrong to issue unilateral orders.
“The health care community needs to be on board, legislation has to be on board, and the residents of the state of Illinois need to be on board,” Miles said. She’d call lawmakers back for big decisions, she said.
Republican businessman Gary Rabine said the governor is acting like a dictator.
“It is unconscionable that the Governor would mandate all school employees to be vaccinated,” Rabine said in a statement. “It is not the government’s role to make healthcare decisions for its citizens. This is a dictator-like government overreach, and it is one we, as a society, must stand up to adamantly oppose.”
Pritzker’s mandate is if someone can’t or won’t get vaccinated, they must be tested for COVID-19 at least weekly.
State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, said the mandates are out-of-control government.
“Nobody, no one, should be mandating any of this nonsense,” Bailey said. “It’s a choice and it’s your choice.”
Former Republican state Sen. Paul Schimpf said the governor doesn’t have the moral authority, citing instances of the governor’s handling of the LaSalle Veterans’ Home COVID-19 deaths. Schimpf also criticized majority Democrats for letting the state be ruled by one man.
“If they feel that the circumstances are so dire, that this is such an emergency that we need a mask mandate for everybody in doors and we need mandated vaccination, we need to go the proper route, we need to go through the General Assembly,” Schimpf said.
The primary for both established parties is in June 2022.