At least the Illinois Republican gubernatorial primary is. In fact, there is so much weirdness that it feels like some kind of scam or end-run around the will of the electorate.

First, some background. Incumbent JB Pritzker is, at best, deeply flawed and unpopular. Of course, there are always true believers, but this is one of the least likable governors in memory. So, what we get is an open field on both sides – he is not running unopposed in the Democratic Party primary, and there are more candidates than usual on the Republican side.

And here is where it gets wonky. Of the six remaining candidates (4 dropped out), each has either severe problems internally, or a ‘strange bedfellows’ situation. Let’s look at them in alphabetical order…

Darren Bailey is in a strange position. He is, by most accounts, one of the more conservative candidates. Which is good. He sued over the COVID lockdowns and won, also good. He is pro-gun & pro-life, good and good.

But based on televised ads, he is also, somehow, backed 100% by the Democratic Governors Association. This is rather a problem. This backing is evident if you know how to listen. In ad after ad, the DGA uses conservative phrasing, puts something up like it is a complaint, then stop without any follow-through (Darren Bailey sued over Pritzker’s COVID mandates and won). They lead with ‘Darren Bailey is too conservative for Illinois’, then list all the reasons a conservative would want to vote for him. The biggest tell was toward the end of an ad talking about abortion, saying he would ‘defend the 2nd Amendment and the unborn’. Unborn is not how the left refers to, well, the unborn. That is a conservative-specific phrase.

Honestly, I can’t see any reason for this awkward support other than the DGA seeing him as an easier opponent for JB. The overt interference in a primary is unusual, and opens the door for the same in the other direction.

Richard Irvin has borrowed Pritzker’s playbook and campaigned as if he was the candidate already. He sounds good, mostly, but there are questions.

Chief among these, currently, are his frequent recorded praise of Pritzker. Many of those are introductions, so that isn’t automatically indicative of actual support. He also told a then-girlfriend that he would ‘take care of’ her arrest for assault. I have not seen or found anything to suggest he actually has ‘taken care of’ it, but also nothing to point the other direction. My take here is that actions matter more than intent.

The pros dislike his evasiveness. He has a tendency to dodge questions on specifics, another problem move to me.

Overall, he is a strong candidate, he was fast to get ads out, and he has been running as if he already won, which is a good move. I am unsure about his chances with those issues hanging over his head though.

Gary Rabine…no, I didn’t know the name either. He really hasn’t been running any ads, and isn’t discussed when the topic of who will challenge JB comes up.

Gary is, interestingly, the only candidate with a male running mate, and the only one to not offer a biography of his running mate on the website.

Frankly, it looks like he plans to loose.

Paul Schimpf? See Gary. I hadn’t heard his name before this, and he seems to also have no media presence. At all. Not even mass mailers. Maybe he and Rabine are only campaigning away from the Chicago area, figuring no one up here votes Republican. Who knows.

Oh, look. Another one with no campaign presence in the Chicago area Max Solomon. It is depressing that so many of the candidates are either unable or unwilling to campaign in the entire state. Seems like that should be considered a basic requirement.

He is, however, an interesting candidate. I suspect that, in a fairer system, he could have been the front-runner.

Jesse Sullivan is the third candidate that has a major presence. He is polling behind Bailey & Irvin currently.

Sullivan is running on a strange platform. He has made faith a front-piece of his campaign, has a lot of law enforcement backing, and is pushing his outsider status – he is not a politician. I have complained preciously about his use of his kids in ads, but at least they are his kids, unlike the guy running for Secretary of State who is using other people’s kids.

But here is where he loses me. Despite finding him interesting, and agreeing more or less with his positions, the more I see of his ads, the less I like what I see. The photo illustrates some of that. The woman isn’t his running mate, it’s his wife. And that is the expression we see in every single ad. I am not analyzing his marriage or relationship. I am saying that her lack of different expressions is very Stepford.

From a marketing standpoint, Sullivan is the only one not listing his running mate in the logo.

So, for Sullivan, he faces a lot of hurdles. I was ok voting for him, but the more I see in ads, the less I like. It is also of note that only Richard Irvin has run ads against him, and those were countered too easily. It made Irvin look weak and petty. Your basic Illinois Republican, I guess.

Getting some political experience might help Sullivan in four years. This cycle, he just doesn’t have the traction.