Democratic gubernatorial hopeful J.B. Pritzker on Thursday named state Rep. Juliana Stratton — a South Side native and criminal justice advocate — as his running mate.
Pritzker made the announcement in a video released by his campaign, and the two Democrats appeared at a rally at Sherwood Park on Thursday morning.
There, Pritzker championed Stratton, a first-time legislator, as a “person of genuine empathy,” who isn’t “shy about standing up to Bruce Rauner or Donald Trump.”
Stratton, who is African-American and was elected with the help of President Barack Obama, called herself a problem solver who can bring people together. She lamented the struggles of Chicago’s minority communities.
Stratton is a former aide to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and she is currently the director for the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Center for Public Safety and Justice.
“So many of our communities of color, especially in the black community, are not being heard. We have been ignored and suffered decades of disinvestment,” Stratton said. “Too often, we are on the wrong side of the disparities in the criminal justice system, education and in economic development. But instead of genuine engagement and long term investment, politicians in Springfield and Washington come in with short-term fixes and Band-aids. We don’t need more Band-aids. We need real solutions and that is what J.B. and I will provide.”
Stratton, who also worked as a mediator, said leadership is lacking in the state.
“Bruce Rauner is going nowhere fast, alone,” Stratton said. “The damage has been done by Bruce Rauner. The problem is Bruce Rauner. The solution is J.B. Pritzker.”
Last year, Stratton — backed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and unions — waged a high-profile primary campaign to oust Ken Dunkin from his South Side state representative seat. Dunkin was targeted after siding with Rauner on some key votes.
Obama ended up cutting a campaign commercial for Stratton during her campaign. It was a rare move for a sitting president to wade into a state legislative race; in the commercial, Obama praised Stratton as someone who “has spent her career serving our community, improving the juvenile justice system and protecting public safety.”
Dunkin and Obama had a history; Dunkin had run a radio ad using a snippet from an Obama speech to the Illinois General Assembly in Springfield. The ad seemed designed to leave the impression Obama was backing Dunkin.
Obama had told lawmakers in his speech that finding common ground with opponents doesn’t “make me a sellout to my own party” — but when Dunkin jumped up to clap at the line, as if it were intended for him, Obama told him to sit down, adding: “We’ll talk later, Dunkin.”
Stratton would serve as Pritzker’s lieutenant governor should he win. Gubernatorial candidates and their running mates must run together under the same party in the primary due to a change in state law in 2014.