Meet the Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Who Founded a Left-Wing ‘Social Justice’ Magazine

A venture capitalist running in Illinois’s Republican gubernatorial primary is a relative newcomer to the right. Fifteen years ago, Jesse Sullivan founded a self-described “social justice” magazine that has defended riots and abortion.

Sullivan, a political neophyte who ran a San Francisco-based nonprofit before launching his gubernatorial bid in early September, founded the magazine One World in 2006 while a student at St. Louis University. The publication had financial support from left-wing groups like the Center for American Progress, whose goal was to “counter the growing influence of right-wing groups on campus.” In the years that followed, One World published articles dismissing riots in Ferguson, Mo., as the work of “a few troublemakers” amid “an entire crowd.” Four years later, in 2018, the magazine expressed support for the “legal right to choose” to have an abortion.

As the state’s gubernatorial primary heats up—three other Republicans have already announced their candidacy, with state senator Darren Bailey considered an early favorite—Sullivan is distancing himself from the magazine as he charts a campaign whose centerpieces include public safety and the right to life.

A Sullivan campaign spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon that the Illinois Republican founded the publication “when he was in college doing humanitarian work,” though Sullivan remained on One World‘s masthead as the magazine’s “visionary” long after his graduation. His campaign says that role came with “zero involvement or editorial oversight.” At the same time, Sullivan appears to have remained involved with the magazine, headlining its 10-year anniversary celebration in 2016. A campaign spokesman said he spoke at the event “as a courtesy.”

“The suggestion that Jesse agrees with the viewpoints of a magazine he has had nothing to do with, is laughable,” Sullivan’s campaign said in a statement. “Let’s get back to the issues at hand and leave the cancel culture to the liberals and political hacks.”

Since launching his campaign, Sullivan has voiced a number of views that represent an about face from those expressed in the magazine he founded. He has blasted Democrats for turning the city of Chicago into a “corrupt war zone” and often emphasizes the need to “back the blue,” or support the police. He has also rallied supporters against the state legislature’s decision to repeal a 1995 law that required parental notification when a minor child receives an abortion.

“I am pro-life, but many of my friends in Illinois that are pro-choice agree that the extreme left has gone too far,” the candidate said in October.

Sullivan announced his gubernatorial campaign in September with a $5 million contribution from San Francisco billionaire Chris Larsen. The Silicon Valley angel investor—who also contributed $500,000 to the California Democratic Party and $250,000 to Nancy Pelosi’s House Majority PAC in 2021—described Sullivan as a “bridge-builder” who he met through the Illinois resident’s various Golden State business ventures.

In addition to the $5 million he received from Larsen, Sullivan entered the race with a combined $5.75 million from three California donors, including insurance executive Kevin Taweel, who contributed $4 million. 

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