By CARL GREEN
Illinois Democrats emerged from the March 20 primary election with a strong show of unity behind Labor-endorsed candidate for governor, J.B. Pritzker.
The billionaire industrialist took 45 percent of the vote in a six-way primary, easily defeating the top challengers, state Senator Daniel Biss, who garnered 26 percent, and Chris Kennedy, who had 24 percent, giving Pritzker and running mate, state Representative Juliana Stratton, the Democratic nomination.
Governor Bruce Rauner won the Republican nomination, but just barely, edging out right-wing Representative Jeanne Ives, 51 percent to 49 percent, indicating serious weakness in Rauner’s support from his own party.
‘A VICTORY FOR ALL WORKING PEOPLE’
Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery said Pritzker’s and Stratton’s victory was “a victory for all working people.
“They are thoughtful, hard-working, compassionate,” he said, “and they are ready for the work ahead.
“We come together as one team to elect a governor who will stand up for all of us against the powerful special interests dedicated to destroying the progress working families have made,” Montgomery
said. “We can trust J.B. and Juliana to lift people up and bring them together, instead of encouraging conflict and causing lasting damage to our public institutions and democracy, as Bruce Rauner has done.
“We are unified and energized, and together, we will fight forward and win.”
ON THE SIDE OF WORKING FAMILIES
In his acceptance speech, Pritzker emphasized bringing the Democratic Party together for the sake of the state.
“Tonight, we’ve taken the next step of beating Bruce Rauner and putting Illinois back on the side of working families,” Pritzker said. “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,” he added. “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.”
Both Biss and Kennedy followed with strong statements of support for Pritzker.
Illinois Democrats seek to flip Metro-East,
southern Illinois Congressional seats
Three Democrats emerged from Illinois’s March 20 primary election to challenge the Republican congressmen who now represent the split-up Metro-East area and southern Illinois.
Democratic St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly easily defeated little-known opponent David Bequette, getting 80 percent of the vote in the 12th Congressional District, which represents Belleville, East St. Louis, Alton and Granite City. Kelly will take on incumbent Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) who is seeking a third term. The Illinois AFL-CIO endorsed Kelly.
Kelly said his district and many others have been left to crumble from government inattention and that he would seek to reverse that.
“Today in America, a handful of folks are doing really well, but the middle of the country has been hollowed out,” he said. “We can’t let any more lifelong politicians ignore our needs in Southern Illinois. We have roads and bridges that are crumbling and children who can’t do their homework because they don’t have a reliable internet source.”
Springfield fundraiser and activist Betsy Dirksen Londrigan outdid four Democratic opponents to win in the nomination in 13th Congressional District, which crosses central Illinois and dips down to include Edwardsville and much of Madison County.
Londrigan, supported by the United Steelworkers, Senator Dick Durbin and other party leaders, took 45 percent of the vote to challenge incumbent Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville).
Londrigan said she is ready for the long campaign ahead.
“We’ve got some work to do,” Londrigan said. “I’ll continue doing what I’ve been doing, putting more miles on my Chevy and getting around the district and listening to voters.”
A former teacher who now runs a tutoring business, Kevin Gaither pulled a surprise victory by winning 62 percent of the vote against marketing executive Carl Spoerer of Mahomet, who was endorsed by the Illinois AFL-CIO. Gaither was endorsed by the Chicago Tribune and campaigned on ways to boost the economy, healthcare, and criminal justice reform.
“The motivating factor for most of our district’s woes are wage stagnation,” Gaither said in an online interview last fall. “This has remained an issue ever since the failed Reagan trickle down economic theory diminished unions and depleted family incomes as prices have risen across the board.”
Gaither will face a significant challenge unseating long-time incumbent John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) in the rural 15th District, where voters have consistently voted Republican since the 1970s.
Gaither said he knows he’ll have to convince Republican voters to give him a chance.
“I’m going to appeal to them through their values that I share,” Gaither said. “There hasn’t been a Democratic candidate come along in a long time who speaks their language, who makes them believe there is a chance for us. I am dedicated to making a difference for these people and giving their children a chance to stay here and have a future to be proud of.”
Labor-endorsed Democrats, worker-friendly Republican
seek state House and Senate seats
Three Labor-endorsed Democrats and a worker-friendly Republican emerged from the March 20 Illinois Primary seeking win or maintain state House and Senate seats.
Illinois AFL-CIO-endorsed State Senator Kwame Raoul, of Chicago, defeated former governor Pat Quinn in the Democratic primary for state attorney general. He will face Republican attorney and former Miss America Erika Harold in the general election.
REMATCH IN THE 112TH
Labor-endorsed incumbent Representative Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville) was unchallenged in the primary. She will face former Republican Dwight Kay, who she ousted two years ago, in the general election for the 112th House District.
57TH SENATE DISTRICT
Labor-endorsed Democrat Christopher Belt was unopposed in the 57th District that includes much of East St. Louis and Belleville. He will face Republican Tanya Hildenbrand, who defeated racist radio host Bob Romanik in the primary. The incumbent, Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne, is stepping down.
In the 10th House District incumbent Charlie Meier of Okawville – one of the Republicans who helped Democrats approve budget and education bills over Rauner’s vetos – easily shook off a challenge from Madison County Board member Don Moore, getting 73 percent of the vote. There was no Democratic candidate.
The Metro-East’s Democratic incumbents were unopposed in the primary.