By CARL GREEN
Caseyville IL – Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker and his running mate, Juliana Stratton, were such frequent sights in the Metro East during the election campaign that it didn’t seem unusual to see them back at a local union hall again recently, this time to celebrate and offer thanks.
A big crowd of union members, public officials and Democratic Party supporters filled the Steamfitters Local 439 Hall as Pritzker and Stratton closed out a long, campaign-like day of stops across the state, inviting their supporters to come to the Jan. 14 inauguration.
“I just want to say, truly from the bottom of my heart, thank you,” Pritzker told the crowd. “Thanks for knocking on doors, for phone banking and for getting the vote out – because look what happened.”
What happened was that while experts expected a record 3.7 million voters, the final tally was an astonishing 4.4 million, he said, adding that he will continue his visits to the region.
“You’re going to see me over and over and over again like you did during the campaign,” he said. “You’re going to be sick of us when we’re all done with this, but it’s because we love you, because we want to thank you, and because there’s so much we need to do here in St. Clair County and all across southern Illinois and central Illinois.”
Pritzker acknowledged St. Clair County Democratic Party Chairman Bob Sprague and said he won’t forget that St. Clair was the first county in the party to endorse him. “To all of you, we really are here to say thank you,” he said.
‘RIGHT TO WORK,’
GONE FOR GOOD
Pritzker revisited some of the themes of his campaign to raucous cheering and applause. “You know that this campaign was about standing up for working families,” he said. “I told you we are going to ban three words from the dictionaries in the state of Illinois, and those are ‘right to work.’
“We’re going to make sure we make college affordable and bring back vocational training and career and technical education to our high schools. We’re going to expand health care so everybody gets covered – that’s a fundamental right,” he added. “I promise you, we’re going to work our hearts out for you.”
STRATTON: ALL ABOUT UNITY
Stratton, a state representative from Chicago, reiterated Pritzker’s theme of unity among Democrats.
“We made history on Nov. 6 as Democrats all across the state,” she said. “At the end of every speech, J.B. asked the question, ‘Are you ready for the fight?’ And you all showed that you were ready for the fight.
“So now the question I’m asking is, ‘Are you ready for the work?’ Because doing the big things we need to do in this state is going to require all of us to continue working together. There’s a lot that we need to do, and it’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to require all of us to push and to fight and to continue advocating for what’s best for the people in this state.”
Pritzker and Stratton were introduced by newly re-elected state Representative Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville), who said it meant a lot to people here that the candidates visited the area often instead of taking it for granted.
“I appreciate how often you were here during the campaign, and you told us that the entire state matters to you – Madison County matters, St. Clair matters,” she said. “We knew that to be the case, and we knew you were going to be back often, and I’m really glad you’re here today.
“We had a pretty good day back there in November,” she added. “So now we’re a month in, and let’s all celebrate that and be excited about it.”
Stuart said Stratton had proven to be a savvy operator as they worked together in the House.
“I’m going to miss her voice on the floor,” Stuart said. “She is a champion for those who need the champion in Juliana. She is a woman of incredible stature, stamina and compassion. She’s intelligent and she’s funny – and she’s a great dancer.”
Stratton acknowledged two newly elected state senators, Christopher Belt of St. Clair County and Rachelle Aud Crowe of Madison County. She also called out St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly, who fell just short in his bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro).
“It was an honor to campaign alongside you,” Stratton told Kelly. “What a tough race you ran, and how hard you worked! We know there are great things in store for Brendan Kelly.”
Pritzker claimed the right to brag a little about the Democrats’ performance in his race. For one thing, no incumbent Illinois governor had ever lost by the margin that Rauner did, he said. “You crushed it here in St. Clair,” he added.
He noted that no Democratic candidate for governor had won in DuPage County since 1932, in Champaign County since 1936 and in Kane County since 1912 – all among the larger counties.
“All across this state, we won in counties where people just didn’t expect us to have a shot,” Pritzker said. “And it is, frankly, because Democrats stood together up and down the state, and up and down the ticket.
“This was all about us sticking together and sticking to our fundamental values as Democrats, about standing up for working families and people who are striving to get to the middle class,” he added. “And that is what this administration is going to be all about.”