After 20 minutes of closed door debate, the Cook County Democratic Party announced their endorsement of J.B. Pritzker for governor, following a push by a small group of party Committeemen calling for an open primary with no endorsement.
“I share your concerns about an open primary,” 11th Ward Democratic Committeeman and Cook County Commissioner John Daley said during governor candidate state Sen. Daniel Biss’ open session question and answer period. Biss, like each of the eight other candidates running against Pritzker, had called for no party endorsement.
“It was a significant group,” that called for no endorsement, said 33rd Ward Committeeman Aaron Goldstein. “About 20%, but don’t quote me on that.”
While party endorsements barely carry the weight they did years ago, the Cook Democrats’ nod to Pritzker means every Committeeman will be gathering petitions to include Pritzker on the ballot, on most Committeemen’s palm cards on election day, and on a massive, county-wide mailer the party sends just before the primary election.
By itself, signature gathering is a massive, costly task. This year statewide Democratic primary candidates must collect no less than 5,000 unchallenged signatures – and turn in no more than 10,000. Every election cycle, the effort to get candidates on the ballot is a massive, time-consuming task that pulls valuable time and money from the job of promoting the candidate. With the Cook Democrats’ endorsement, Pritzker avoids that time and money-suck, while his opponents must struggle through it.
The Cook County party also endorsed the four Democrats who hold statewide constitutional office: Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Treasurer Mike Frerichs and Secretary of State Jesse White. Of the four, only Frerichs appeared before the group to personally ask for endorsement, and White has not officially announced whether he intends to run for reelection. However, White is widely rumored to be announcing his re-election plans on August 17.
Governor candidates were supposed to be limited to a combined five minutes for speeches and a question and answer period, but most went over their time as Committeemen posed questions about their policies and campaigns.
During speeches asking for party endorsement Pritzker mostly talked about his work building superior campaign machinery, describing the “dozens of field organizers” he’s hired and time he’s spent visiting parts of Cook County with party members. This earned nodding heads from many party leaders in the room. Committeemen pressed him for specific details on economic development, municipal pensions and more for a further 15 minutes.
In contrast, the other three leading candidates for governor were kept much closer to their five minute limit. Chris Kennedy, Ald. Ameya Pawar and Biss each dwelled on their message. Standing a yard away from Cook County Democratic Chairman and Assessor Joe Berrios, Kennedy charged, “the problem is we have a system led by property tax lawyers.”
Pawar leaned on a Bernie Sanders-like theme. “This election is about the intersection of race and class,” he said. “What undergirds the war on drugs and the loss of small town jobs is economics.”
Of Pritzker’s opponents, Biss got in the best zinger, a clear shot at the multi-billionaire. After questioning whether Democrats want government to be controlled by billionaires, he asked, “Are we going to hold an election or are we going to hold an auction?”
The following endorsements were released:
J.B. Pritzker – Governor
Lisa Madigan – Attorney General
Mike Frerichs – Treasurer
Susana Mendoza – Comptroller
Jesse White – Secretary of State
Toni Preckwinkle – President
Joe Berrios – Assessor
Clerk – Karen Yarborough
Treasurer – Maria Pappas
Sheriff – Tom Dart
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
Kim du Buclet
Audio of Speeches