Gov. J.B. Pritzker launches an East Coast trip Friday, ostensibly to sell Chicago as a 2024 presidential convention site and campaign for Democrats, but a stop in New Hampshire has stirred presidential speculation and criticism from his Republicans opponents.
Pritzker, at an unrelated news conference Wednesday, stopped short of eschewing any future interest in seeking the party’s presidential nomination.
“I can’t tell you anything other than I love the job that I have. It’s why I’m running for reelection as governor of our state, and I intend to continue to do a good job for the people of the state for the next four years,” a smiling Pritzker said.
Some Democrats nationally have questioned whether President Joe Biden, whose tenure has been battered by a poor economy, high inflation and Russia’s war with Ukraine, will seek another term in 2024. His vice president, Kamala Harris, also has had a rocky term and is not viewed as an automatic replacement for Biden should the president not seek reelection.
New Hampshire has historically been home to the country’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary elections after the Iowa caucuses — something that may change as Democrats look to adopt a new national presidential calendar. But its historic role in the winnowing out process of choosing presidential nominees makes any politician’s appearance in New Hampshire suspect as part of a future White House bid.
Pritzker campaign aides sought to downplay any potential presidential aspirations by the governor, saying the trip is part of an extensive effort by the governor to support Democrats nationally on one of his top issues protecting reproductive rights for women. The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to potentially overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that gave women the right to seek an abortion without undue government interference.
Pritzker already has personally donated to Democratic governors who support abortion rights, including Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
“The truth is that I’m going to help other Democratic governors get elected in Massachusetts, in New Hampshire, in Maine; to help raise money; to help get the word out. These are pro-abortion rights Democratic governors,” Pritzker said. “The governors are the ones who are going to have power to make sure that we preserve reproductive rights for women and, broadly, rights that are going to be taken away as a result of their overturning of the right to privacy.”
Pritzker will travel to Washington on Friday for a meeting with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Democratic National Committee officials to pitch Chicago’s bid to host the party’s 2024 presidential nominating convention, according to his campaign.
After that, Pritzker plans to travel to Massachusetts to support Democratic governor candidate Maura Healey. He’ll then head to New Hampshire on Saturday where he will be the keynote speaker at the state Democratic Party’s convention in Manchester, supporting U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and governor candidate Tom Sherman. He’ll finish with a trip to Maine to support incumbent Gov. Janet Mills.
Pritzker faces no serious opposition for renomination as governor in the June 28 primary. But the timing of his trip provided fodder for Republicans seeking the GOP nomination to challenge him in the Nov. 8 general election.
On Twitter, GOP state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia said Pritzker was demonstrating that “he cares about lifting his national profile and pushing his extreme national agenda” more than “about struggling Illinois families.”
Another GOP contender, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, said of Pritzker in a campaign statement that it was “no secret his sights have been set on moving on from the damage he’s already done in Illinois — so he’s planning to spend the day fraternizing with Democrats in New Hampshire.”
Noting the millions of dollars Pritzker and the Pritzker-backed Democratic Governors Association have poured into the GOP primary campaign to attack Irvin and bolster Bailey, viewing the downstate senator as an easier general election opponent to defeat, Irvin’s campaign said, “The quickest way to run for president is to pick the easiest person to beat in your reelection for governor.”
A third contender, venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan of Petersburg, called Pritzker’s trip the “soft launch” of the governor’s presidential campaign.
“Illinois — We can stop this in its tracks,” Sullivan tweeted, urging supporters to vote for him to defeat Pritzker “and end this train wreck before it starts.”
Chicago Tribune’s Dan Patrella contributed.
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June 15, 2022 at 04:24PM