Pritzker romps, Raoul escapes as primaries suffer low Black turnout
By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
The primary brought out millions, but the race for governor in the general election is about to break the bank.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay “J.B.” Pritzker and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle dominated the Illinois Primaries in dramatic fashion March 20 in an election day filled with stunning upsets and tight races.
Heavily courting the Black vote, Pritzker’s stunning victory brings former State Representative Juliana Stratton one step closer to becoming Illinois’ first Black lieutenant governor.
Capping off a rally in opinion polls, Pritzker crushed his opponents, winning 45 percent of the vote in a race that was declared less than two hours after the polls closed at 7 p.m. Preckwinkle also won big, winning nearly 61 percent of the vote against opponent Bob Fioretti. Both candidates swept the election after overcoming doubts about their electability following Pritzker’s comments about Black leaders and Preckwinkle’s unpopular sugar tax, which was repealed last November after protests and public outcry.
Pritzker’s win set up a showdown with incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner in the general election while Preckwinkle cemented her status as the big boss of Cook County, whose latest prodigy, Brandon Johnson, ousted incumbent District 1 Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin.
“This was never about a single vote on a sugar tax—or how many soda beverages people could buy. That has always been their choice,” said Johnson. “Our campaign is about health care, jobs, contracts, housing, and people being able to feed and care for their families. This isn’t just about Democratic issues at (sic) election time—it’s about we believe our value are as people in Cook County, in Illinois, and these United States. This campaign embraces everyone, and that has been reflected in our vote. We are prepared to fight any and all who stand in the way of democracy. equity, equality, inclusion and common sense as we move toward November.”
It was one of several tight races in the spotlight on election day. With just 30 percent of the vote, State Senator Kwame Raoul barely won the Democratic race for Illinois Attorney General over former Governor Pat Quinn, who was second with 23 percent of the vote. Another favorite, former IPRA Chief Sharon Fairley, was third with 14 percent of the vote.
The race for Illinois Attorney General in November will now include two Black candidates after challenger Ericka Harold won the Republican Primary.
For the U.S. House, veteran Congressman Bobby Rush automatically won the Democratic race after running unopposed in District 1. Congressman Danny K. Davis, who faced criticism in the press for continued support of Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, had one of the biggest margins of victory of the night after beating Anthony Clark, winning 74 percent of the vote. Congresswoman Robin Kelly was also reelected winning 82 percent of the vote. Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia won the seat vacated by retiring Congressman Luis Gutierrez.
For the District 5 seat in the Illinois House, insurance businessman Lamont Robinson easily beat veteran Ken Dunkin and Professor Dilara Sayeed, winning 41 percent of the vote. In a heated race to replace retiring 25-year veteran Barbara Lynn Currie, Attorney Curtis J. Tarver II beat six opponents for the IL House 25th District. State Representatives Thaddeus Jones (29th) and Mary Flowers (31st) were reelected after soundly defeating their opponents. Tarver, Jones and Flowers will run unopposed in the general election in November.
In Cook County races, Dennis Deer, who was appointed to the District 2 Commissioner’s seat after the death of Robert Steele in 2017, won with nearly 33 percent of the vote. Also elected were prominent attorney Bill Lowry (District 3), Stanley S. Moore (District 4) and veteran Commissioner Deborah Sims (District 5).
Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough will replace retiring County Clerk David Orr in November when she runs unopposed for the position. For the Democratic Primary, Yarbrough also ran unopposed after her opponent, attorney Jan Kowalski McDonald was removed from the ballot.
After eight years as Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios lost to Fritz Kaegi.
Overall in Chicago and Cook County voter turnout was the lowest in years with just 441,732 out of over 1.5 million or 31 percent of voters going to the polls.
The percentage was higher in some wards in Chicago’s Black community. Alderman Leslie’s Hairston’s (5th) ward in South Shore had the highest participation of voter turnout with nearly 39 percent of 11,264 voters casting their ballots. In Alderman Sophia King’s (4th) ward, which includes parts of Bronzeville, Kenwood and Hyde Park, more than 38 percent of the area’s 32,030 registered voters voted. But voter turnout in the majority of the city’s predominately Black wards was lower than 30 percent.
Despite the dismal numbers, Johnson and several rookies staged big upsets in a political climate that favored incumbents.
Big labor unions pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaigns of Johnson and other candidates whose platforms stood for working class families and businesses.
For Pritzker, the victory was sweet, a swift one that surprised many supporters after a tough race that involved businessman Chris Kennedy, and Daniel Biss. All three candidates heavily courted the Black vote by tapping young Blacks as their running mates. Since a story broke about Pritzker making derogatory remarks about Black leaders, the billionaire’s campaign for governor lost momentum as his opponents made significant gains in opinion polls. In Chicago’s Black community, Pritzker and Stratton embarked on a long apology tour to restore his bruised image. On Tuesday it didn’t matter, as the heir of the Pritzker dynasty never trailed behind his opponents in updates on the election votes. Now, the November election will be a showdown between high-profile billionaires.
Pritzker’s election night party at the Marriott Marquis near the McCormick Center, thousands of supporters packed a large ballroom to congratulate him.
“Tonight, we’ve taken the next step of beating Bruce Rauner and putting Illinois back on the side of working families,” said Pritzker. “When I announced this campaign, I chose to stand with Illinoisans across this state and I chose to fight. We are fighting for unions and the families they have so tirelessly defended for so long, Dreamers and immigrants of all kinds seeking a better life, women who deserve their seat at the table and to have their voices heard, and Black and brown communities who deserve fairness in enjoying the wealth this great nation denied them for so long. I will fight today, and tomorrow, and every day of this election and every day after to get our state back on track. I will never forget that you elected me to fight. Together, we have built a campaign in all 102 counties and we are ready to unite this state to defeat Bruce Rauner and move Illinois forward.”