Chicago Tribune Editorial Board endorses J.B. Pritzker for governor

When he was elected governor of Illinois in 2018, J.B. Pritzker was blissfully unaware of the COVID-19 crisis that would dominate his first term. As anyone with a loved one in a retirement home knows, the state’s response was far from perfect, and history will judge that Illinois public schools were kept closed for too long, given the impact on learning.

But those issues were pervasive across the country and Pritzker worked hard in the heat of the crisis to keep Illinois humming, to clearly communicate his policy decisions and intentions, and to keep its residents safe.

This was an extraordinary test for a novice governor with no political experience. And yet Pritzker approached his podium every day with a humility that was lacking among some other prominent governors. He tried to speak the truth as honestly and as clearly as possible, to make decisions according to solid scientific advice, to avoid hypocrisy in his own behavior and not hide what he knew.

Even among those who did not support him politically, he engendered trust during some of the darkest hours in the history of this great state.

We need to remember that. It is crucial to Pritzker’s case for a second term.

We also applaud the governor’s decision earlier this year to shore up the notoriously problematic pension funds and to put $1 billion into the state’s rainy day fund.

Such a wet day may be fast approaching. The world and its markets have changed a lot in 2022. The sunny days of record-breaking tax revenue ended with the processing of 2021 returns, given the gut-shaking drops in the market, the precipitous rise in labor costs for businesses and the signs of an approaching recession.

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Also turning off fast are the spigots of federal cash that made Pritzker’s sunny budget announcement much easier, given that the impact on inflation of such largesse finally is being better understood by President Joe Biden’s administration. As we have said before, increasing the minimum wage achieves nothing if its purchasing power is being shredded by rising prices.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker prepares to give an update on the pandemic from the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago on Dec. 1, 2020.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker prepares to give an update on the pandemic from the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago on Dec. 1, 2020. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune / Chicago Tribune)

But with those caveats, it is hard to argue that Pritzker has been fiscally irresponsible or that the state under his leadership has been logjammed or chaotic. For the most part, Illinois has been efficiently run. Pritzker has hired capable people, persuaded them to work as a team, and got some good stuff done.

Those who do not support Pritzker, such as his nemesis Ken Griffin, argue in general that he has a blind spot on crime and its impact on so many Illinoisans. They say his national ambitions mean that he is unwilling to take any stand against union excesses, socialist-influenced legislation cloaked with words like “equity of outcomes” (as distinct from equality of opportunity) and other third rails of national Democratic Party policies, including, in Illinois, the notorious Amendment One, which we do not support.

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These opponents argue with some foundation that Illinois is a moderate state, that Pritzker ran as a business-friendly governor and yet he has governed as a different kind of public official, one in the thrall of the extreme wing of the Democratic Party and unwilling to stand up to public sector unions, even if it costs taxpayers money.

And we note a certain ruthless political tinge to some of his actions on the campaign trail, including a refusal to meet with us (he complained of consistently unfair treatment, the Tribune reported, which is absurd) and, more importantly, a truly cynical decision earlier this year to use his resources to quietly fund ads supporting the Darren Bailey campaign because his operatives decided he would be easier to beat than Bailey’s rival in the Republican primary, Richard Irvin. That was pure old-school sleaze from a candidate who claims to stand above such tactics.

Pritzker, of course, has disavowed any presidential ambitions and no doubt will continue to do so until Biden announces a decision on running for a second term. In the event Biden decides not to run, and Pritzker’s team thinks he has a chance of beating likely rivals Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsom, all bets will be off. But presidential ambitions are not a disqualification for Illinois governor. As was true of Barack Obama, a president from the Land of Lincoln is good for the state. The problem comes when those ambitions interfere with the running of the state.

We trust Pritzker will be mindful of that, and listen more closely to business leaders like McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski, who has rightly pointed out that Chicago needs a reboot.

What’s an endorsement, and why does the Tribune Editorial Board do them? ]

Pritzker’s rival is Darren Bailey, a successful downstate farmer. We did not endorse Bailey in the primary but we did find him a far more polished candidate on a recent meeting with him. He appeared far more genial and less defensive, and his rhetoric was not as extreme (deeming Chicago the “problem child” of Illinois was not an ideal simile, but it sure beats “hellhole” and devolution).

We were glad to hear the Xenia Republican say that Biden was legitimately elected president. We were pleased to hear him talk about his willingness to reach across the aisle, should he become governor. And we appreciated hearing his ideas on better supporting law enforcement officers, improving schools, standing up for the agricultural sector, striving to reduce taxes, prosecuting criminals with existing laws and pushing for a functional federal immigration policy to replace the current chaotic squabbling.

Republican candidate for governor Darren Bailey and his wife, Cindy Stortzum, arrive at a campaign stop at Crossroads Restaurant on Sept. 21, 2022, in Mundelein. (Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)

But we also support a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion in Illinois. We vehemently disagree with Bailey’s desire to get rid of the Illinois firearm owner’s identification card, which is a crucial weapon in a very limited arsenal to prevent criminals or mentally disturbed people from gaining access to firearms. Like most police officers, we’d like to see fewer guns on our streets, not more of them.

We see effective community policing as the only way to fight the scourge of violence. Adding more police officers or threatening to throw more people in jail will not solve anything on its own. And we see Donald Trump as a pox on the Republican Party and in need of a far more vehement dismissal and disavowal than Bailey ever has been willing to make.

We appreciate Bailey’s commitment to public service and his passion for the people of Illinois. But our endorsement for Illinois governor goes to Pritzker.

Join the discussion on Twitter @chitribopinions and on Facebook.

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via Chicago Tribune

October 11, 2022 at 08:35AM

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