As Bailey seeks to weaken Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Black support, governor launches new ad with endorsement from former President Barack Obama

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A new TV spot from Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker touts an endorsement from former President Barack Obama just as the governor’s opponents are seeking to weaken his support among Black voters.

“Illinois will always hold a special place in my heart,” Obama says in the 30-second ad, which began airing Friday on TV stations statewide. “You believed in me before anyone else did. And you believed in J.B. Pritzker too.

“He’s made Illinois a national leader on so many issues we care about: raising the minimum wage, protecting voting rights, cracking down on the sale of illegal guns.”

Obama, who along with former first lady Michelle Obama cast his ballot Monday at the early voting site in the Loop, also says in the ad that he was proud to vote for Pritzker’s reelection because he “signed a landmark law protecting a woman’s right to choose,” a reference to a 2019 state law that enshrined access to abortion as a “fundamental right” in Illinois.

The commercial’s release comes after Pritzker’s Republican opponent, state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia, and his allies have sought to tamp down enthusiasm among Black voters for the first-term governor.

Former President Barack Obama appears with then-gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker during a get-out-the-vote rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Former President Barack Obama appears with then-gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker during a get-out-the-vote rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)

“Black people should not vote for J.B. Pritzker,” former ABC-7 reporter Charles Thomas, who is Black, says in an ad from a Bailey-aligned political action committee called People Who Play By The Rules.

The PAC, run by right-wing radio show host Dan Proft of Naples, Florida, is paying Thomas $50,000 as a consultant, State Board of Elections records show.

In their final debate of the campaign on Tuesday, Bailey at least twice pointed to purported antipathy toward Pritzker in Chicago’s “Black neighborhoods.”

“They are fed up,” Bailey said, claiming the governor doesn’t visit neighborhoods like Washington Park on the South Side when shootings occur.

During a news conference after a mass shooting in Washington Park last month, Bailey said, “J.B., how many more Black families have to mourn before you recognize that Black lives really do matter?”

Asked at the debate what the phrase “Black lives matter” means to him, Bailey responded, “It means that every life matters.

“And unfortunately, J.B. Pritzker during his four years in office has created so much division and hate in this state with racial ideas and ideology,” he said.

Obama has been actively campaign for Democrats in other states, including neighboring Wisconsin and nearby Michigan, ahead of the Nov. 8 general election. His endorsement of Pritzker in an ad rather than during an in-person appearance is an indication the former president and other Democrats aren’t deeply concerned about the governor’s reelection chances.

The endorsement comes as little surprise, despite some interesting history between the two.

When Obama entered the 2008 presidential campaign, Pritzker’s sister, Penny Pritzker was an early supporter and his campaign’s national finance chair. She would go on to become his first Commerce secretary.

J.B. Pritzker, however, backed Obama’s rival for the Democratic nomination, then-U. S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.

Obama also played an important role in jump-starting the political career of Pritzker’s running mate, Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton. While still in the White House in 2016, he took the rare step of cutting a TV and radio ad supporting Stratton in her successful Democratic primary bid to unseat incumbent South Side state Rep. Ken Dunkin.

Chicago Tribune’s Rick Pearson contributed.

dpetrella@chicagotribune.com

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October 21, 2022 at 12:58PM

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