Just days after making his reelection bid official, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker is launching the first TV ads of the 2022 race for governor with three spots looking at Illinoisans’ response to the pandemic that unveil his campaign’s theme: “Strong leadership in tough times.”
The 30-second spots, scheduled to break Saturday, feature Pritzker telling the stories of a nurse who volunteered as part of the state’s COVID-19 response, a National Guard member involved in testing and vaccinations and the owners of a small distillery who shifted their business from bourbon to hand sanitizer.
The people and businesses featured in the ads are from downstate — Springfield, Belleville and Rochelle — a region where Pritzker is weakest amid opposition to the phased mitigation restrictions he imposed to deal with the pandemic.
“It’s the people of Illinois all across the state who came together during tough times to lead the effort to save lives and protect livelihoods during the state’s response to the COVID pandemic,” Pritzker said in a statement that went out with the new ads.
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“It’s the people of Illinois who motivate me every day and I’m excited to be running for reelection to continue to lift up working families and move Illinois in the right direction,” he said.
Pritzker has contended opposition to his efforts to deal with the pandemic has been led by a “loud” minority of citizens. But Republicans have sought to play off the criticism and the three announced GOP challengers, Bull Valley businessman Gary Rabine, state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo, have been ardent opponents of Pritzker’s restrictions.
The campaign did not release details of the extent of the ad buy, which comes 11 months before the June 28 primary, where Pritzker faces no serious opposition.
On the way to defeating one-term Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, Pritzker began his TV campaign in February 2017 — more than a year before the 2018 primary. Unlike this time around, Pritzker was in a crowded field of Democrats seeking the primary nomination, and the wealthy heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune needed to introduce himself to Illinois voters.
Pritzker on Friday also announced veteran Democratic campaign operative Mike Ollen will be his 2022 campaign manager. Ollen most recently was involved in Sarah Gideon’s unsuccessful challenge to Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in Maine.
Quentin Fulks, who had been in charge of Pritzker’s political operation, including the unsuccessful push to change the state from a flat-rate income tax to a graduated-rate system, has been named campaign manager for Georgia U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Warnock took office in January, helping give Democrats control of the Senate, and is seeking a full six-year term next year.
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