Democratic governor hopeful J.B. Pritzker is covering a lot of crucial Illinois primary political ground in tapping State Rep. Juliana Stratton, D-Chicago, to be his running mate.
Pritzker made the official announcement in an email sent out on Thursday with a video where Pritzker says of Stratton, “I need a partner in this fight.”
Here’s why Stratton will give a political boost to Pritzker and leave his Democratic primary rivals now having to play catch-up:
- Democratic primaries are about getting out the base – and in Illinois, that’s African-Americans, females and labor friendly voters in Chicago and the collar counties. Stratton checks all those boxes.
- More than that – Stratton is a historic choice – if elected, she would be the first Illinois African-American female lieutenant governor.
- She has credentials on criminal justice issues – and Pritzker will likely let her take a lead on some evolving Pritzker/Stratton initiatives.
- Stratton is a smart pick given Democratic primary geo-politics in Illinois. Her 5th District covers large portions of Chicago’s South Side.
- The Pritzker campaign can position Stratton as someone who could help make Springfield work – using her background as a professional mediator.
- Stratton comes to the contest with a historic stamp of approval from former President Barack Obama.
Though Obama is not expected to get tangled up in the large field running for Illinois governor, the Pritzker/Stratton ticket can certainly talk about the the Obama endorsement for Stratton that helped her defeat now-former State Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago in March 2016.
Here’s what Obama said last year, in the one incursion Obama made in an Illinois primary while president:
“Juliana will fight to get guns off our streets and fight for tougher penalties for violent offenders. I’m Barack Obama. I’m asking you to vote for Democrat Juliana Stratton for state representative,” the former president said in the TV ad, where Obama did not appear on camera.
It’s not clear if Pritzker/Stratton can use Obama’s actual clip in an ad — they have to be careful not to imply Obama is involved in the Illinois gubernatorial primary — but there are creative and proper ways to make it work.
The minus: Stratton is a freshman lawmaker with little experience in Springfield, but that also means she has fewer votes to attack.
She does have a history of important support from Illinois House Speaker and Democratic Party of Illinois Chair Mike Madigan, which makes her vulnerable to GOP attacks.
Which came shortly after the official announcement, when Illinois Republican Party spokesman Steven Yaffee hit the new Pritzker/Stratton ticket with this slam: “Stratton took millions from Madigan-backed groups to win a state house seat and had Mike Madigan’s top political operative run her campaign. J.B. Pritzker is making it clear that he will allow the governor’s office to be annexed over to Speaker Madigan.”