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Tazewell County Republicans say recent GOP primary campaign tactics are 'too negative'

Tazewell County IL Republicans Facebook page
Tazewell County courthouse

The Illinois primary election is Tuesday, and some Tazewell County conservatives say primary campaign tactics in this cycle are too "cutthroat."

The Tazewell County Republicans released a statement on Friday saying they find recent campaign tactics used among Illinois Republican candidates unacceptable, with prolific negative messages being circulated by many campaign teams about their primary opponents.

Jim Rule is chairman for the Tazewell County Republicans. He said while intense competition is pretty typical in any election, recent tactics of tearing down opponents are unethical.

“We all know that that happens to some degree during every election cycle, but this particular one, where we’ve got Republicans battling Republicans, has been extraordinary. It’s a bad thing. It’s a bad thing for the party. It’s a bad thing for the state. It’s a bad thing for the voters,” Rule said

He said when messages tearing down opponents are spread through mailers, TV and radio commercials and social media, voters will likely get lost in the mixed messages, which may hinder them from being able to distinguish truth from fiction.

Rule said the culture surrounding elections borrows for some negative campaigning because it is important to hold candidates accountable for their actions now and in the past. Though recently, Rule said there needs to be a cultural shift surrounding which messages should and should not be accepted.

“We have seen so many examples of things taken out of context or just flat out, blatant lies that some campaigns are saying about the other campaigns. Those are what I’m targeting. That’s what’s got to stop because it’s not fair to anybody, and it’s especially not fair to the voter,” Rule said.

Rule said with the Illinois general election in November coming up, candidates need to take charge of their campaigns now.

“We need campaigns when they campaign to focus on the issues. To focus on those things that are going to make our lives better as citizens here in Illinois or as citizens of the United States or citizens of the various communities that we live in. That’s what my message is on that,” Rule said.

Rule said it is each candidate's responsibility to only approve ethical and moral campaign tactics, and every candidate and their teams need to hold themselves accountable. That is the first step.

“We’ve reached out to a lot of the candidates, and we’ve talked to them, especially the ones we felt were launching these negative campaigns. We talked to them. We wanted to find out why. We wanted to find out if there was an alternative way for them to get their message out,” Rule said.

Not only is it up to individual candidates to express responsibility for their campaigns, but Rule said it is partially up to voters to hold all candidates responsible and to know when to say “enough.”

“If we see a campaign that’s launching into these negative tactics, there’s nothing wrong for the voter to come back and say, ‘Hey, you know what? Stop it. We’re not going to listen to you,’ or ‘We’re going to take a closer look at your opponent.’ It’s these types of things that we have to start holding our elected officials accountable for whether they’re running as incumbents or they’re running as first term elected officials,” Rule said.

In addition to being knowledgeable voters about campaign messages being spread, Rule said it is important for everyone to vote on Tuesday.

Rule said holding candidates accountable now and before the Illinois general election in November depends on voters.

Jordan Mead is a reporting intern at WCBU. She joined the station in 2021.