Head of Dem guv group defends Pritzker and his wealth

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The incoming chairman of the Democratic Governors Association is swinging through town on a fundraising trip today, and though he did some predictable bashing of incumbent GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner, he also stuck up for J.B. Pritzker, who’s pulling ahead but has yet to lock down the race for the Democratic nomination.

The comment came from Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee when I asked him if, given the divide in the Democratic Party between progressive insurgents and establishment types, he has any concern that the party nominee here well could turn out to be the wealthy Mr. Pritzker.

“We’re not discriminating,” Inslee cracked, adding that he’s just finishing reading a biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, another rich pol, who led his party to decades of domination of Washington politics.

Roosevelt “did some great work for working people,” Inslee said, referring to things such as union rights, Social Security and the first national minimum wage. “I don’t think that (the money) will be a problem.”

Inslee stressed that his group will remain neutral in the Democratic primary, preferring to hold its fire—and cash—for the general election against Rauner. Inslee promised the DGA will be here a lot. “Our nominee will be very strongly supported here,” he said. “This is going to be a very high-priority race for us.”

Inslee said the party finally understands that control of statehouses is the key to controlling congressional remap, which will occur after the 2020 census. The party also believes Rauner “has done damage” to the state and needs to go.

Team Rauner has a sharp retort. Says a campaign spokesman for the governor, “Jay Inslee proposed a $4 billion tax hike in Washington state so it’s no surprising he’s throwing in with Mike Madigan Democrats in Illinois who hiked income taxes here by 32 percent.”

Referring to Illinois’ slipping credit rating, lack of job creation and more, Inslee said residents “deserve more.”

“We need governors who will stand up to Donald Trump right now,” Inslee said. Rauner “hasn’t fought to protect health care or the Dreamers. He hasn’t done a thing on the travel ban.”

As my colleague Kristen Schorsch reported earlier this week, Rauner’s insurance director has taken steps to avoid the cuts in coverage here that Trump is pushing nationally. But the governor himself, though saying once or twice that he has problems with what’s occurring in Washington, has been much more low-key than other GOP governors, such as Ohio’s John Kasich.

Meanwhile, one of the Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls who’s trying to hold off Pritzker and his money, Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy, has proposed a fairly comprehensive government reform agenda.

Among other things, the candidate calls for moving the date of the primary from March to “a more hospitable month” in which turnout might be higher; making it easier to adopt initiatives and referenda; electing all school boards (including the Chicago Board of Education); banning political parties from contributing to candidates during a primary; creating a small-donor matching system, and adopting term limits on statewide offices. Kennedy also proposed remap reform “so voters can choose their elected officials, instead of elected officials choosing their voters,” but left out crucial details about exactly how to do that.

Pritzker responded that he, too, is for “comprehensive campaign finance reform,” term limits on legislative leaders, elected school boards and unspecified remap changes. But he’d keep the current March primary exactly where it is now, saying it “allows candidates to regroup and run strong campaigns in the general election.”

A third hopeful, state Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston, pointed to his previously released reform plan. It includes term limits on legislative leaders, small-donor matching and “fair maps,” but also gets into a couple of other areas, such as “grass-roots selection” of the state party chair (it’s now Mike Madigan) and a “ranked choice” voting system in which you effectively can vote for more than one person for the same office.

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