Todd Ricketts isn’t ruling out a run for governor, according to a source close to the Cubs co-owner.
The revelation follows Tim Schneider’s announcement over the weekend that he is stepping down as state party chairman, prompting chatter that Ricketts, who is also chairman of the Republican National Committee’s finance committee, may be a possible — though unlikely — replacement.
“Todd thinks Tim did a great job as state chair. As Todd is continuing as RNC Finance chairman, he will not be a candidate for state chair,” the source said, which leaves Ricketts’ options open for a statewide run.
Todd, the youngest, has at times felt overlooked. Shortly after the Rickettses bought the team, Todd e-mailed his father and older brother Pete complaining that Tom seemed to be getting all the credit. Deadspin published the missive: “My kids live in the same neighborhood and go to the same school as Tom’s kids, and I don’t want them to have to constantly [be] explaining that there are equal owners when they are told that their uncle owns the Cubs. The reason I am so sensitive to this is that even today I feel as though my input and ideas are disregarded among our family, just as they were when we were kids.” As if to underscore his relative anonymity, a year later, Todd starred in an episode of “Undercover Boss,” growing a beard and taking odd jobs at Wrigley Field. No employees recognized him.
Todd Ricketts became deeply involved in Republican politics by working alongside his dad, who had staked out a position as a big conservative donor. (One of Todd Ricketts’s friends told me that Todd wanted to talk politics so much that it became difficult to spend time with him.) In 2013, Todd became the C.E.O. of one of the nation’s wealthiest political-action committees, Ending Spending, which his father founded and whose mission is to take on what it deems wasteful government funding. He and his father were, in many ways, a smaller version of the Koch brothers, whom Joe once reportedly called “great heroes.”
In 2013, Ricketts made a political decision that suggested the kind of compromises he was willing to make. That year, the pac Ending Spending spent four hundred thousand dollars on ads for the Virginia gubernatorial campaign of Ken Cuccinelli, who would ultimately lose to Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat. Cucinnelli, who is now the acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, spoke to Ricketts’s belief in limited government—especially his opposition to the Affordable Care Act—but he also adamantly opposed same-sex marriage and said homosexuality was “against nature and harmful to society.” For Ricketts, whose sister is gay and active in L.G.B.T. advocacy—and whose uncle was gay and died of aids—Cuccinelli seemed like an odd political bedfellow. Moreover, that same year, Ricketts personally lobbied four key Republican state legislators to vote to legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois. “Todd is not a ‘single-issue’ voter,” Danny Diaz, Ricketts’s spokesperson, told me in an e-mail. “Todd obviously does not agree with Cuccinelli’s position on same-sex marriage.” One friend of Ricketts’s calls him “a principled pragmatist.”
Scott Walker, the former Wisconsin governor, is close to Ricketts. They bonded at an event at the American Enterprise Institute shortly after Walker signed Act 10 in Wisconsin, which reduced collective-bargaining rights for most state and municipal workers, including all teachers. Ricketts told Walker he admired what he was doing in Wisconsin—and so, when Walker faced a recall, Ricketts and his parents came to Walker’s aid. Ricketts held a fund-raiser, serving Wisconsin beer and bratwurst at his home in a suburb north of Chicago. “We get wonky, geeky, about policy,” Walker told me.
Despite his father’s experience, Todd Ricketts can be surprisingly unfiltered. In comments on his Facebook page, Todd referred to covid-19 as the “the kung flu”—weeks before Trump used the demeaning phrase at a rally in Tulsa. In a post of a video in which New York Mayor Bill de Blasio urged residents to call the city if they witnessed large gatherings of people, Ricketts commented, “All snitches will be given priority when applying for jobs as security guards at the concentration camps that will be opening later this year.” […]
“The challenge in our conversations,” [talk show host Maze Jackson] told me, “is how do you address the systemic racism. Sometimes Todd would say, ‘How come you guys can’t just . . .?’ and I’d explain we haven’t had the opportunities.” […]
I asked Ricketts’s spokesman how Trump inspired Ricketts, and in return I received a twenty-page document titled “Trump Administration Accomplishments.” It’s clear from the list that Ricketts believes Trump has delivered for conservatives, including his crackdown on immigration and his emphasis on law and order. (Nearly three pages of bullet points argue that Trump has led a “comprehensive and aggressive” campaign against the coronavirus.) Additionally, as Walker mentioned, Ricketts sees in Biden’s candidacy a looming socialist threat. Ricketts’s spokesman cites endorsements by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders as evidence of this, along with Biden’s belief that the government can serve to protect the public’s well-being, including his call for eliminating carbon emissions by 2050, for expanding Social Security, and for lowering the eligibility age for Medicare to sixty. “Todd believes that President Trump represents an agenda that advances freedom for all Americans and expands opportunity for people at every level of the socioeconomic ladder,” Ricketts’s spokesman told me.
And then there is the mess that is the Cubs.