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Democratic candidates talk Blagojevich, Trump voters

Wednesday, Jan 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller


From his jail cell in Englewood, Colorado, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich cast a huge shadow over Democratic front-runner J.B. Pritzker in the only primary debate to feature all six of the Democrats running for governor in 2018.

Pritzker says there was nothing sinister or illegal about the wiretapped phone call he made to Blagojevich about a job nine years ago.

The long-forgotten phone call, one of many recorded in late 2008 as federal agents closed in on Blagojevich, resurfaced with a sinister spin earlier this month as an attack ad aired by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign.

Pritzker argued, during a debate in Carbondale featuring all six of the Democratic candidates for governor, that he was just offering his financial expertise as a public service. But perennial candidate Robert Marshall argued that it makes Pritzker un-electable. Two other candidates, businessman Christopher Kennedy and State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), voiced agreement.

Given the chance to respond, Pritzker said Rauner has done nothing to improve schools or the state’s finances, and said if he wins the nomination, he will “take him out.”

* Tribune

Kennedy, an heir to the iconic Massachusetts political family, declared Pritzker “unelectable in the general election.”

“The truth is, just because you don’t break a law doesn’t mean you’re innocent, and we need to hold our elected officials to a higher standard,” the Kenilworth businessman said. Kennedy contended that Pritzker’s actions made him “the poster child, the data point” of a “Republican strategy” of voter suppression to dissuade general election voters from casting a ballot for a Democrat.

Biss, an Evanston state senator, warned that a potential “blue wave building across the country” in October would occur “except in Illinois” because Democrats would have to “play defense about Rod Blagojevich and FBI recordings.”

“Bruce Rauner is on the ropes. Bruce Rauner is in trouble. Bruce Rauner is a failure. The only way he can win is if he is able to make that kind of attack, of unpopular politicians like Rod Blagojevich and (House Speaker) Mike Madigan,” Biss said. “If J.B. Pritzker didn’t exist, Bruce Rauner would have to invent him. It’s too dangerous. We can’t afford to nominate J.B. Pritzker.”

* They did talk about other stuff, including President Trump’s supporters

“If we don’t restore the American Dream. If we don’t restore upward economic mobility, we’ll elect somebody worse than Donald Trump,” Kennedy said.

Rival candidate Daniel Biss was quick to defend Trump supporters, while saying there must be an end to the politics of division: “Donald Trump is a racist and a bigot,” Biss said. “That doesn’t mean that his supporters are.” […]

Pritzker didn’t back down from his earlier take on the president: “I don’t care what part of the state I’m in. Donald Trump is still a racist, and a xenophobe, and a misogynist and a homophobe. And I’m going to call him that. I don’t care,” he said to applause.

But he also blamed the Democratic Party for not focusing on issues that affect the middle class during the 2016 presidential race — despite being a strong backer of Hillary Clinton.

“They voted for him [Trump] because we Democrats in 2016 didn’t demonstrate that we were standing up for the kitchen table issues, the things that really matter to middle class families and those striving to get to the middle class,” Pritzker said.

The full debate, shaky camera and all, is here.


  1. - LXB - Wednesday, Jan 31, 18 @ 10:03 am:

    Weird WBBM lede. The moderator explicitly called it a “forum” and not a “debate” at the opening, and the six candidates were just all together for a similar event in Chicago.

  2. - Red fish blue fish - Wednesday, Jan 31, 18 @ 10:10 am:

    It was amateur hour last night with the stream– literally a guy holding an iPhone.

    Besides that, Dr. Robert Marshall was the star of the night.

  3. - Amalia - Wednesday, Jan 31, 18 @ 10:16 am:

    I don’t like a lot about JB. but criticizing someone for their appearance is wrong. criticize him, and anyone, for their acts and their beliefs.

  4. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jan 31, 18 @ 10:21 am:

    ===I’m going to call you that, and I don’t care===

    And yet another goofball is added to automatic comment moderation.

  5. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jan 31, 18 @ 10:21 am:

    –But perennial candidate Robert Marshall argued that it makes Pritzker un-electable. –

    Pay attention — he’s an expert in that area.

  6. - Back to the Future. - Wednesday, Jan 31, 18 @ 10:34 am:

    Agree with Amalia

  7. - Responsa - Wednesday, Jan 31, 18 @ 10:58 am:

    ==”…….And I’m going to call him that. I don’t care,””

    The question I have and I would really like to know is whether B’s comms director/debate prep person had a mini heart attack at the moment when JB went so far there. Or, had the comms director *told* JB to go there if the subject came up. Knowing the answer to that question would help explain what is going so wrong in the JB camp’s messaging so far.

  8. - Arsenal - Wednesday, Jan 31, 18 @ 11:18 am:

    ==Knowing the answer to that question would help explain what is going so wrong in the JB camp’s messaging so far.==

    If you think calling Donald Trump out is bad politics in a Democratic Primary, I might suggest that *your* messaging is off.

  9. - Arsenal - Wednesday, Jan 31, 18 @ 11:21 am:

    I mean, it says right there in the copy-

    ==he said to applause==

    Yeah, what’s going so wrong in JB’s messaging that he’s saying things that make his audience cheer?

  10. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jan 31, 18 @ 11:26 am:

    Responsa, you realize Pritzker is running in the Democratic primary, right?

    Did you see Trump’s approval rating in Illinois yesterday? Of the 33% of those who approve of Trump, how many do you think will be voting in the Democratic primary?

  11. - Responsa - Wednesday, Jan 31, 18 @ 12:01 pm:

    Word, I think Biss’ response, for example, firmly acknowledged that exact fact you raise yet also managed to navigate an answer that did not sound truculent or overtly offensive to some potential voters down the road in the general. Some observers may think that candidates trying to out-do each other in expressing their hatred for Trump is the golden key to a Dem primary victory in our sorry state. Perhaps it is, but I doubt it.

  12. - Arsenal - Wednesday, Jan 31, 18 @ 12:16 pm:

    ==did not sound truculent or overtly offensive to some potential voters down the road in the general==

    I thought the whole thing about Trump voters was they thought everyone was too easily offended nowadays?

    You can’t please everyone, so you may as well demonstrate conviction. And it clearly worked, since the room applauded.

  13. - Pundent - Wednesday, Jan 31, 18 @ 12:30 pm:

    In the same way that Rauner voters will be united around “Madigan” Democratic voters will be united around “Trump”. And part of what Democrat primary voters will be looking for is someone that can clearly run an anti Rauner-Trump campaign.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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