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GOP Illinois gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin holds news conference for first time since announcing run, but doesn't answer some questions

GOP gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin holds rare news conference
GOP gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin holds rare news conference 02:28

AURORA, Ill. (CBS) -- Monday marked the first time in months that Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin took questions in months.

He did so after holding a news conference to blast Gov. JB Pritzker's handling of the COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans' Home in the fall of 2020, which left 36 residents dead.

But CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov found taking questions was one thing when it came to Irvin. His answering them was another.

"There needs to be accountability," Irvin said among harsh words about the LaSalle Veterans' Home COVID crisis. He said the blame goes all the way to the top.

"It's crystal clear, from what we are reading and seeing, that Pritzker and his team only began to care about this after the media – all of you guys – began to point it out and bring it to his attention," Irvin told reporters.

Irvin – the mayor of Aurora and the potential GOP gubernatorial frontrunner – spoke at a rare campaign news conference Monday.

This was the first time he actually took questions from reports since filing his candidate petition in March.

When it comes to the issue of abortion, Irvin said Monday, "Listen, I'm pro-life."

The remark came one week after a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion indicated that judges were set to overturn the 49-year-old Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Irvin initially refused to comment, despite the fact that all but one of his GOP challengers did – and despite the very real possibility that the SCOTUS leak now makes abortion a top campaign issue.

Irvin did clarify on abortion, "My exceptions are rape, incest, and the health of the mother."

But that was about the only question Irving answered about his record. While his ads portray him as a tough-on-crime Republican, Irvin has pulled Democratic primary ballots in three past elections.

Yet when he was asked if he voted for former President Donald Trump, Irvin deferred.

"That's exactly what JB Pritzker wants – you know, all of you talking about," Irvin said. "He wants to be talking about anything but his failures and his record."

Irvin deflected, demanding that a reporter at a follow-up question let him finish. Then he attacked.

"I'm not going to fall into the trap of JB Pritzker talking about what he thinks we should be talking about in this campaign," he said.

And then that was it. Irvin ended the question-and-answer session after 11 minutes.

CBS 2's Kozlov has put in many formal interview requests with Irvin. We'll keep asking.

Irvin said he believes the LaSalle Veterans Home deaths are the result of criminal negligence. Last week, Gov. Pritzker went on the defensive, stating he can't keep track of what all 50,000 state employees are doing at all times.

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