Pritzker: ‘Everybody needs to be ready for the fight and we are’

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Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

A day after resoundingly winning the Democratic nomination for governor, J.B. Pritzker showed no signs of stopping the momentum of his campaign — and gave no assurances he won’t continue to pump out millions of dollars to try to unseat Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Pritzker told the Sun-Times he won’t commit to a spending cap for the fall campaign; he’s already pitched in nearly $70 million of his own money to his race.

“Sen. Paul Simon once said that even while you’re fighting for campaign finance reform, you can’t unilaterally disarm. And so I believe we’ve got to make sure that we’re competitive in this 2018 election so that we can remove Bruce Rauner from the governorship and then get real campaign finance reform and make real changes to the government,” Pritzker said.

RELATED: Pritzker makes early-morning stop at CTA station; Rauner in St. Charles

There’s no doubt Rauner’s campaign will continue to try to link Pritzker to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan — and a full backing by the Democratic Party at this point will likely only embolden those efforts.

With the general election officially beginning, the Rauner campaign has released a new ad which they said makes it clear that J.B. Pritzker is a self-dealing insider who will do the bidding of Mike Madigan. It features comments that two of his just-vanquished primary opponents — state Sen. Daniel Biss and businessman Chris Kennedy — made during debates, criticizing Pritzker and his perceived links to Madigan, who besides holding the the powerful speaker’s post is also head of the state Democratic party.

Pritzker’s campaign, in turn, released their own digital ad highlighting what they call Rauner’s “four years of damage, crisis and pain.”

And, Pritzker said, the Madigan card won’t work because voters are “sick and tired of Bruce Rauner.”

“He has been an utter and complete failure and blames his failures on Madigan every single time. People are just sick and tired of hearing it. It’s an old trick on his part, saying he’s not in charge. And it’s clear that the voters just aren’t buying it. Look at the results that he had yesterday in his campaign,” Pritzker said.

And seeing the division in the Republican vote on Tuesday night — Rauner survived a tight primary, with more than 48 percent voting for state Rep. Jeanne Ives — Pritzker said the Republican Party is “completely divided.”

“It’s because so many Republicans see him as an utter and complete failure and Democrats are united in wanting to defeat Bruce Rauner and it appears that we have allies on the Republican side in our effort,” Pritzker said.

In his victory speech, Pritzker thanked his opponents, as well as Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar, who dropped out of the race last year. Pawar, State Sen. Daniel Biss and businessman Chris Kennedy had hoped a wave of progressive voters would head their way.

Pritzker said he spoke to both Kennedy and Biss on election night. And he said Pawar also will be “an important part of our our effort because he believes, like me, that it’s a critical time in the history of our state and that we need to get big things done.”

But what else is out there? Pritzker was hit with negative headlines throughout his campaign, which began with a Sun-Times investigation which revealed he received a $230,000 property tax break by ripping out toilets in a Gold Coast mansion. Then came Tribune investigations revealing unfavorable FBI wiretaps of Pritzker speaking with Rod Blagojevich, the now-imprisoned former governor. And with just days ahead of the primary, Pritzker was forced to defend himself against a Chicago Tribune report that claimed Pritzker and his brother control several offshore companies created between 2008 and 2011 — suggesting that Pritzker may be avoiding paying taxes. The story contends one of Pritzker’s offshore companies is part of a venture that plans to buy land along the Chicago River to launch boat tours downtown.

“I think that they [voters] should anticipate that Bruce Rauner is going to run one of the most negative campaigns in history because he has nothing positive to run on, and I will fight a tough campaign,” Pritzker said. “You heard me talk about the fact that everybody needs to be ready for the fight, and we are. And it’s clear that Bruce Rauner threw everything he’s got at me in the Democratic primary and I overcame that as I will in the general election.”

Rauner, meanwhile, was in St. Charles on Wednesday morning to start his general election campaign after beating back a surprisingly strong challenge from state Rep. Jeanne Ives, whose main line of attack had been not that Rauner had failed working families, but had failed conservatives. Rauner visited CartonCraft, which makes folding containers.

After St. Charles, Rauner was headed to Moline, where he’ll talk to voters and reporters about “the contrast between his reform agenda and J.B. Pritzker’s record of corruption,” his campaign said.

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