Campaign and candidate are a bit out of sync
Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker seemed to back away last week from part of a statement he made the week before at a Chicago church about the criminal justice system, but his campaign says he meant what he said.
Just days after the Chicago Tribune made public secret FBI recordings of Pritzker talking to then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Nov. 14, 2008, about African-Americans who Blagojevich could name to the U.S. Senate, Pritzker appeared Thursday at the Stone Temple Baptist Church.
“It’s time for an overhaul of our criminal justice system,” Pritzker told the predominantly black audience on Chicago’s west side. “Our communities are strong and resilient, but they’re being let down by a criminal justice system that is devoid of any justice.”
Pritzker was in Springfield last week and had a meet-and-greet at International Union of Operating Engineers Local 965.
After he addressed the crowd, I asked whether he really thinks the criminal justice system is “devoid of any justice.”
“I don’t know if I said ‘any,’” Pritzker said. “If I said it, it was a misquote. ... I do believe that there is injustice in the criminal justice system and that we are working to fix it. I mean, my running mate, for goodness’ sake, has a record of passing nine bills to fix some of the challenges.”
State Rep. Juliana Stratton, D-Chicago, is Pritzker’s running mate and was also at the church.
“J.B. stands by his statement and knows we need to reform our criminal justice system so that it is fair for all,” said Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. “For decades, the criminal justice system has disproportionately affected people of color. J.B. and Juliana have released a comprehensive plan to address issues of inequity and will work to ensure there is opportunity for everyone in Illinois.”
The Tribune dubbed Pritzker’s visit to the church part of an “apology tour,” as Pritzker did apologize for parts of his 2008 conversation with Blagojevich in which Pritzker was advocating for Blagojevich to name Secretary of State Jesse White to the Senate to take the place of then-President-elect Barack Obama.
Pritzker called White the “least offensive” of potential black candidates, and called then-state Senate President Emil Jones Jr. “a little more crass” than an ideal candidate. Jones is backing Kenilworth businessman Chris Kennedy for governor in the March 20 primary.
At the church, Pritzker also said that what people heard on the tape of his 2008 conversation is “not what is in my heart. ... My heart is filled with a lifelong commitment to fighting for equal opportunity for African-Americans and for everyone in Illinois. ... Real opportunity is often reserved for a group that is too small and too white.”
He said his campaign is diverse, and if he’s elected, “We will build an administration like that, with African-American leaders at all levels making the decisions that guide us forward and the decisions that affect the economic health of the African-American community.”
Local 965 has not endorsed in the governor’s race. At that Springfield appearance, Pritzker told the mostly white audience of the importance of unions, his plans to bring jobs and opportunity, and his view that GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner will try to win in the fall by trashing unions and Democrats.
“Labor is the backbone of the middle class, the backbone of the Democratic Party, and the backbone of the state of Illinois,” Pritzker said. “I intend to put Springfield back on the side of working families. ... It is time to throw this bum, Bruce Rauner, out of office.”
Rauner has said he is not anti-union but has sought to limit the power of unions through executive action, legislation and the courts.