Pritzker discusses game plan, opens up about wiretap


J.B. Pritzker talks with a Charleston resident Wednesday after a meet and greet at the Jackson Avenue Coffee shop.

Analicia Haynes, Editor-in-Chief

Democratic primary gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker addressed how he would work with the legislature and his platforms during a meet and greet arranged by the Coles County Democrats.

Supporters of the Coles County Democrats packed Jackson Avenue Coffee  Wednesday afternoon to hear from with the businessman and venture capitalist, who announced his bid for governor April 6.

Sitting shoulder to shoulder in the cramped venue, tucked in the back of the shop, people listened, cheered and applauded as Pritzker discussed his intentions why he wants the position.

“I think this is about bringing people together to solve problems,” he said. “I’m an independent thinker, an independent leader, so there’s nobody in Springfield to tell me what to believe or what I’m going to fight for.”

When asked by an audience member how he can work with the legislature considering his background in business and as a billionaire, Pritzker said he has proven that he can bring people of different political backgrounds together to try to solve problems.

“Why should we replace their rich guy with our rich guy?” Pritzker asked, referring to his wealthy background. “I am nothing like (President) Donald Trump or (Gov.) Bruce Rauner.”

Although Pritzker has not worked in the legislature before, he was a legislative assistant, so he said he knows how legislation works.

As for his campaign, Pritzker said he believes in transparency and wants to be held accountable for what he says.

“I’m telling you the things that I really want to do and what I want to fight for,” he said.

These things include implementing a progressive income tax, support for k-12 education, raising the minimum wage, criminal justice reform and legalizing and taxing marijuana to make it safe.

“If I tell you that I believe in all those things then that’s exactly what I’m going to go after,” he said.

Pritzker said once elected, he would help elect state state representatives and state senators who believe in transparency.

“That’s something I think we need to really need to focus on,” he said. “We are Democrats and we have got to go elect more Democrats.”

Pritzker said the first thing he would do is make higher education a priority in the budget, saying he recognizes that a university education is vital to the future of the state.

Doing this would mean state legislators need to step up to the plate to make sure faculty, programs and students remain in Illinois and at state universities, he said.

“Paying for universities and k-12 education and preschool is about investing in the future of the state,” he said.

The meet and greet wandered into controversial territory as an audience member asked Pritzker about a phone call he had with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The Chicago Tribune reported in late May that Pritzker called Blagojevich asking to be state treasurer since it was rumored that Alexi Giannoulias, the treasurer at the time, would be running for a spot in the White House.

The phone call was taped by the FBI in November 2008.

In their wiretapped conversation, Blagojevich asked about appointing Pritzker to the Senate and for a significant campaign contribution while they also discussed the possibility of appointing Pritzker as treasurer.

During the meet and greet, Pritzker called the situation a political attack.

He said he was only reaching out to the former governor to offer his experience in public service and to ask that he be considered for the treasurer position.

The wiretap was illegally obtained by Republicans or “somebody” and then it ended up in the newspaper, Pritzker said.

“I’m proud, frankly, to have done public service, to be seeking to do public service…and so that was the story and it got made into something,” he said. “The Chicago Tribune hasn’t exactly been friendly to anybody that doesn’t like Bruce Rauner. I must say they were the ones who got the story from someone.”

Pritzker said he has and is still being attacked by Republicans for several reasons, because they believe he is the strongest Democratic candidate in the election.

He said this is because he has a real background, has accomplished many things and does a better job at selling himself as a candidate.

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].