Pritzker promises ‘robust campaign’ to beat ‘mess’ on GOP side — but keeps pocketbook plans close to his vest

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law last week.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law last week. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

In a one-on-one interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Pritzker tried to keep the focus on his record and the work that remains. He said he’ll make sure “people know where I stand on the issues.” 

One day after launching his bid to hold on to an office he spent a record-breaking $171 million of his own money to win, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday brushed aside criticism from the right that he would “attempt to buy another election.”

But the Chicago billionaire wouldn’t estimate how much of his own personal fortune he expects to spend this time, beyond promising a “robust campaign” to help Democrats win up and down the ballot.

In a one-on-one interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Pritzker tried to keep the focus on his record and the work that remains.

“I’m all about making sure people know where I stand on the issues and know what it is that I’ve done to make people’s lives better across the state,” Pritzker said. “We have made government work for Illinois families, and I’m going to continue to do that job we’ve begun to really get our fiscal house in order in Illinois, and those are all things that I’m going to make sure that you know the people of Illinois — the voters of Illinois know — and also how much more we can do over the next four years.”

The Democratic governor spent the day after officially launching his bid for a second term with a three-minute video by sitting for a series of one-on-one interviews with the Illinois political press corps in an effort to sell the highlights of his first term as he prepares to make his case for a second.

Pritzker’s Republican challengers went after him with their own partisan talking points after he announced his reelection bid.

“Today our failed, liberal Governor J.B. Pritzker announced he’s going to attempt to buy another election,” state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, said Monday. “Billionaires like Pritzker cannot relate to the struggles of working Illinois and families.”

On Tuesday, the governor didn’t address that criticism head on, responding that he’ll make sure “people know where I stand on the issues.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker praises the state budget at a news conference at the State Capitol in Springfield last month.
Justin Fowler/State Journal-Register via AP
Gov. J.B. Pritzker praises the state budget at a news conference at the State Capitol in Springfield last month.

Asked about Bailey and the other two Republicans vying for the chance to unseat him, the governor called the GOP field “a mess” and said he’s “not going to address the challenges that they’ve got as a party and all the varying views that exist among the Republican candidates.”

In addition to Bailey, Pritzker’s current Republican rivals include suburban businessman Gary Rabine and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo. Two Democrats – West Side nurse Beverly Miles and Keisha Smith — have also launched bids, but with Pritzker’s deep pockets and name recognition they’re in for a battle.

Suburban businessman Gary Rabine, left, in March; State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, center; former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, right.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file; Facebook
Suburban businessman Gary Rabine, left, in March; State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, center; former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, right.

The governor demurred when asked how much of his own money he’ll put into his reelection campaign.

In 2018, Pritzker pumped $171,832,734.95 of his fortune to his campaign, breaking the previous national record for a self-financing candidate. It broke down to about $72.90 per vote.

An heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, Pritzker has a net worth Forbes estimates at $3.5 billion.

Pritzker said he’ll help wherever he can to fund raise for the state’s candidates.

That’ll include supporting Blue Wave Illinois to elect down-ballot candidates and working with Democratic Party of Illinois Chair Robin Kelly, whose day job as a member of Congress prohibits her from fund-raising activity in state or local races.

Kelly beat Pritzker’s pick for the job, Ald. Michelle Harris (8th).

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, left, last August; Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), right, in February.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia; Pat Nabong /Sun-Times file.
U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, left, last August; Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), right, in February.

The Federal Election Commission ruled last week that the state party could create a special committee to raise funds for state elections, but Kelly could have no role in that fundraising or in selecting members of the committee. One commissioner said that decision makes Kelly’s role “purely honorary.”

Pritzker didn’t express concern about that decision or what it means for the party as it heads into a midterm election year, which is often difficult for the party that holds the White House.

“We want to make sure we have a robust apparatus to elect Democrats, and so I know that the party is making attempts to get around the FEC ruling and we’ll have to see where that comes out,” Pritzker said. “I’ve always liked and respected Robin Kelly — she’s been a great U.S. congressperson … so I’ll continue to support her.”

While his response to the COVID-19 pandemic was the focal point of a Monday campaign launch video, the governor said his campaign will also feature the state raising the minimum wage, expanding health care coverage, putting people to work “building roads and bridges and schools” and making the state’s government “work for Illinois families.”

“I ran in 2018 and talked a lot about trying to tackle the biggest challenges that we faced as a state and putting Springfield back on the side of working families and that’s what I’ve been doing,” the governor said. “We’ve got to grow our economy. These are all things that I’ve been working on and that we need to continue to do in the next four years.”

But Rabine issued his own statement, arguing the “people of Illinois cannot afford four more years of J.B. Pritzker” and “his radical agenda.”

“The last two and a half years have been a disaster for Illinois on J.B. Pritzker’s watch,” the GOP challenger said. Governor Pritzker has raised taxes, increased spending, and signed into law some of the most radical, far-left legislation in the nation.”

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July 20, 2021 at 03:09PM

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