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.”
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.