By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
When billionaire Jay Robert (J.B.) Pritzker announced he would be running for governor of Illinois at a South Side park last week, there were many influential Black leaders in attendance. Speaking at the Grand Crossing Park field house, Pritzker said it is time the state gets some real leadership. African Americans, who have arguably suffered the most under current Governor Rauner, are looking for a candidate who will not cut the social services so badly needed, and for someone who understands their plight.
Many Black politicians believe Pritzker is that person, despite his enormous wealth.
“We need to have somebody with resources” said Alderman Walter Burnett (27th). “You have to be able to get the resources to compete. But he also has a lot of relationships. A lot of these organizations and people here today have been touched by the Pritzker family in some way. They understand this family touches regular people every day.”
Indeed, there were 200 people from all walks of life in the Black community, attending the announcement. Many said they benefitted in some way personally by what the Pritzker family has done in the community through its foundations.
Marla Hall said the Pritzker family is in the community, and that means something to her. She was just walking by when she saw the crowd and decided to come in. “My son was in a program with a group the Pritzker family works with so I’m very familiar with the name,” she said. “I think we do need a governor who is going to bring more programs into the community to fight all of this crime we have. I think what we have done to senior citizens and kids, with all of these cuts under Governor Rauner, is criminal.”
Pritzker himself said he sees Illinois decaying under Rauner’s tenure. He said it is also important that the state legislature does its job as well. He said he is committed to the state, which is the reason he is running. “Illinois is my home. This is where I’ve raised my family, where I started businesses and where I’ve created programs to improve the lives of people across the state,” Pritzker said during his announcement. “What’s happening now in Springfield is offensive to our values and who we are as a state. Bruce Rauner’s failure as Governor isn’t just about numbers, it’s creating real damage every day to people across Illinois.”
While people know about the Pritzker Foundation, many do not have a clue who J.B. Pritzker is. His supporters say he is a likeable guy who people can relate to. “I feel that J.B. has the charisma to do this and can make it happen,” Burnett said.
Third ward Alderwoman Pat Dowell is also endorsing Pritzker. She attended his announcement and spoke with the Crusader afterwards. She said while there will be a lot of people running to unseat Rauner, it is critical that the right person emerges and has the full support of the voters. She said J.B. Pritzker does not have any political baggage, which will aid him as he introduces himself to voters and tries to connect with them to address their needs.
“There is a need for economic development in our community and J.B. gets it,” Dowell said. “He spent a lot of time talking about his ideas for small business development support for entrepreneurs. His focus is on neighborhood schools instead of charter schools…all the things we need in our community for them to improve what Rauner has basically ignored.”
She was asked if this new political trend in America, that of white male billionaires seeking higher office, is good for the Black community. Dowell believes it depends on the person, not their wealth. And she said like it or not, in today’s political climate elections are only getting more expensive so you have to have a candidate who can either raise a lot of money or bring a lot to the table.
“When you’re running against someone who has the kind of pockets that Rauner has, you have to be able to compete and it is so imperative that we get Rauner out of office,” Dowell said. “It seems as though he [Pritzker] is the best candidate at this time to do that job. Not just because of the money he has, but the proven record he has in developing new businesses and supporting schools in low income communities. I think he is progressive. And we need to have that kind of governor in order to save Illinois.”