Metro-East News

Pritzker hopes to unify Democrats after contentious primary

JB Pritzker campaigns in Belleville

Democratic gubernatorial candidate JB Pritzker makes a campaign stop in Belleville in southern Illinois near St. Louis, Mo. in February.
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Democratic gubernatorial candidate JB Pritzker makes a campaign stop in Belleville in southern Illinois near St. Louis, Mo. in February.

J.B. Pritzker, who on Tuesday won the Democratic Party nomination to run for governor, said he's confident he'll be able to unify the party following his contentious primary race.

Prtizker received a plurality of the vote on Tuesday, topping five other candidates running for the Democratic nomination.

“Remember, there were six candidates running for (the Democratic nomination) for governor, it was very unlikely anybody would get the majority,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker said he has spoken since Tuesday with state Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy and Madison County Regional Office of Education Superintendent Bob Daiber, who were among those to seek the party’s nomination. They expressed their support for him winning in November, Pritzker said.

“For sure there are going to be opportunities for us to get together and unify,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker discussed unifying the party during an interview with the Belleville News-Democrat two days after his primary victory.

Biss and Kennedy both were highly critical of Pritzker during the campaign, depicting him as a billionaire ally of House Speaker Michael Madigan, as a protector of the status quo in Illinois government and as a poster child for pay-to-play politics. Pritzker spent about $70 million on his primary campaign.

Gambling expansion

Pritzker said he's open to considering gambling expansion in Illinois, including a new revenue source for Fairmount Park.

He said the issue overall has not been addressed during the campaign.

“One of the contemplations anyone would need to have is, what are the consequences from an economic development perspective as well as what are the revenue opportunities that might go with that,” Pritzker said. “It’s obviously something open for discussion.”

Fairmount Park hopes the state would allow the park to have a new revenue source, arguing that without more revenue it would have to close its season early this year.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he would be open to allowing racetracks in the state to have additional revenue sources such as video gaming, but any move ultimately requires the General Assembly to pass some sort of gaming expansion.

On gun control

Pritzker said he would have signed the gun dealer licensing bill, and he would support a ban on bump stocks and high-capacity magazines.

“I think it’s important to have reasonable gun safety measures passed and have a governor who would sign those pieces of legislation rather than veto them. It’s important for us to realize many of the guns that are being used out there in the commission of crimes are coming from across the border in neighboring states,” Pritzker said. “I proposed creating a regional compact and working with states to try to stem the tide of guns coming across the border of Illinois.”

Rauner earlier this month vetoed legislation requiring gun dealers to have a state license in addition to of federal licenses.

“The core issue is not which guns to legally ban or regulate,” Rauner said in his veto statement. “We have ample proof that such narrowly focused legislative responses make for good political cover, but they do little to stop the illegal flow of guns into Illinois or prevent people from committing thousands of crimes in our state each year with illegal guns.”

Rauner has said he wants legislation that addresses school safety, mental health and the creation of an interstate crime prevention network, and would support a ban on bump stocks.


Pritzker has put $69.5 million of his own money into his gubernatorial bid, and has not done any outside fundraising. Whether he will start passing the hat for his campaign remains to be seen.

“We haven’t made any decision about that yet. At the moment, we’re just focused on how to best get all the Democratic nominees for statewide office as well as state (representative), state senators, county officers elected and re-elected,” Pritzker said. “Whether that’s in a coordinated campaign or having them do individual fundraising or having us help them with that. That’s kind of what we’re thinking about right now. No decisions have been made.”

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