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‘Whatever (it’s) going to take,’ says Illinois candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker

Meet governor hopeful J.B. Pritzker

J.B. Pritzker, a Chicago billionaire investor and candidate for Illinois governor running as a Democrat, speaks about why he believes people in Southern Illinois should support him and why he thinks he can work with House Speaker Mike Madigan. Pri
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J.B. Pritzker, a Chicago billionaire investor and candidate for Illinois governor running as a Democrat, speaks about why he believes people in Southern Illinois should support him and why he thinks he can work with House Speaker Mike Madigan. Pri

While speaking at the Illinois Federation of Teachers’ office in Fairview Heights, Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker shared his background and why he is running for governor.

He called for a progressive income tax in the state, which would ultimately need voter approval.

“Raise my taxes, not yours,” the Chicago billionaire investor and entrepreneur said.

He said he intends to announce a plan to revitalize central and southern Illinois and how he would like to see a increase in the minimum wage, but the state has to be careful how it implements it.

Pritzker is one of several people running for the Democratic nomination in the primary scheduled for March of next year. The field includes Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy, Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, Madison County Regional Superintendent Bob Daiber, and State Sen. Daniel Biss, of Evanston.

The nominee would go on to face Republican Governor Bruce Rauner in the November 2018 general election.

After speaking at the union office, Pritzker briefly spoke with the Belleville News-Democrat on Saturday.

Q: Why should people in downstate Illinois take a chance on you for governor?

A: “Because I have a record people can look at and see I’ve created jobs, I’ve enhanced education for young people across the state of Illinois, and because I’m fighting for health care, and making sure we’re standing up for universities in this state, our community colleges, and for our youngest citizens, our preschoolers, because I want universal preschool. These are all things, if you look at my background, you’ll find I’ve really accomplished big things over the years, and done that by bringing people together to solve some of the problems, (and) have helped us develop more slots for preschoolers, enhance education or feed kids in schools.”

Q: If you win and become governor, you most likely will have to work with Speaker Mike Madigan. Why do you think you could negotiate with Madigan and get a budget in place, unlike what we saw the last couple of years?

A: “Well, I’m an independent leader and independent thinker. So I’m going to go to Springfield on the issues that I’m running on and I’m going to stand up for them. Whoever the speaker of the House is or whoever the president of the Senate is at the time, those are the people I’m going to work with. It’s important to know that Bruce Rauner on the other hand has decided from the very beginning that he really didn’t want to work with anybody, he just wanted to dictate an answer and not figure out the solution by working together with people. And frankly he was so far off where people in Illinois really are on the issues. I think where I stand, standing up for education, health care and jobs, means that when I get to Springfield, having run on those issues, I’ll be able to work with people there because I think the forcefulness with which I would have run and won on it means they’ll come to the table (with) the understanding we’ve got to get things done.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker on Saturday posed for photos with people who attended a campaign organizing event at the Illinois Federation of Teachers office Fairview Heights. Photo by Joseph Bustos

Q: Population loss has been a problem in the state. How do you stem that tide, and get us back to where we’re growing and not just Chicago?

A: “All of those things I talked about. People feel their kids can’t stay in the state, because their MAP grants are unsure, because the universities are failing, because they haven’t been funded. These are all reasons people leave — jobs, there are no jobs. That’s why by revitalizing central and southern Illinois, we’ve got to focus on rebuilding education and creating jobs. People don’t leave Illinois for any reason other the opportunities don’t exist for them. In other words nobody wants to leave their home, but they end up doing it if you can’t make a living, or you can’t get the education you deserve. We’ve got to stand up for people all over the state of Illinois, so they can stay in their home county, in their city, in their township and keep their kids there too by having great education available for them.”

Q: There has been talk of having redistricting reform and term limits over the last couple of years. Where do you stand on those two issues?

A: “So I’m opposed to term limits, but not for the reason you think. I think we need more competitive elections. I don’t want to take away people’s ability to vote for somebody. What I want to do is make elections more competitive and that means we should have an independent method of drawing the districts, so that it’s always going to be competitive. You just don’t have a Democrat that’s there forever, or a Republican that’s there forever, but actually have candidates across the board who are running each election cycle that people can go in and make a decision about. If you’re an incumbent and you’re doing good job, and a majority of people in your district want to re-elect you, they’ll have a choice of somebody else, but they’ll probably re-elect you. But if they don’t really have any choices, and a district is drawn so Democrat or so Republican that there isn’t a choice, then why would you even go vote, and why would anybody run on the other side. That’s one of the big reasons why I don’t want to limit competition. I want to enhance competition and that’s why I’m in favor of independently drawn maps and opposed to term limits.”

Q: You put $14.2 million into your campaign fund. How much are you willing to put in for this race, and how much do you think you’ll have to put in?

A: “All I know, with Bruce Rauner writing a $50 million check and $20 million coming from Ken Griffin and tens of millions of dollars that will come in from the Koch brothers network on his side, is somehow we have to be competitive in this race. There isn’t a number in my opinion that anybody could name. I don’t know what it would be. All I know is we got to build the infrastructure for beating Bruce Rauner and whatever that’s going to take.”

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter