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Taking it outside? Democratic county chairs move their state fair brunch outdoors — but Pritzker’s still not in

Dan Kovats, the Illinois Democratic County Chairs Association’s executive director, said he’s not aware of any time a sitting Democratic governor has not attended the brunch in person. Pritzer said, “I’ll be there in spirit and, of course, via video.”

J.B. Pritzker, then Democratic nominee for Illinois governor, addresses reporters after party faithful rallied at a brunch in Springfield prior to Democrat Day at the Illinois State Fair in 2018.
J.B. Pritzker, then Democratic nominee for Illinois governor, addresses reporters after party faithful rallied at a brunch in Springfield prior to Democrat Day at the Illinois State Fair in 2018.
John O’Connor/AP file

The state’s Democratic county chairs will move their annual Illinois State Fair brunch outdoors next week — but Gov. J.B. Pritzker still won’t be sitting down at a table.

The Illinois Democratic County Chairs Association said Friday they’d move the brunch, an annual fair tradition, outdoors. Two days earlier, the governor announced he wouldn’t attend the event, citing concerns over spread of the Delta variant in the crowded indoor setting originally planned.

The new plan calls for the Democratic county chairmen to gather outside Springfield’s Crowne Plaza hotel “under a tent with open sides to further mitigate any concerns from attendees about the coronavirus.” The organization also recommended all in attendance wear masks.

But Pritzker’s still not biting.

“After deciding not to attend the IDCCA brunch, the governor made plans with his family back in Chicago,” a spokeswoman for his campaign said. “He will be sending a video message about the importance of electing Democrats up and down the ballot and will still be hosting a scaled-back outdoor event on the director’s lawn in honor of Governor’s Day.”

Pritzker’s “scaled-back outdoor event” is to be held in Springfield just hours after the county chairs’ brunch the governor is opting out of because he’ll be in Chicago.

The brunch, typically held on the Illinois State Fairgrounds, has been a tradition for Democrats from around the state to gather on their day at the fair for more than three decades.

Gov. JB Pritzker and first lady MK Pritzker, left, unveil the 2021 Butter Cow at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Wednesday.
Gov. JB Pritzker and first lady MK Pritzker, left, unveil the 2021 Butter Cow at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Wednesday.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

Dan Kovats, the county chairs association’s executive director, said he’s not aware of any time a sitting Democratic governor has not attended the brunch.

At an unrelated news conference Friday, Pritzker dismissed some grumblings his decision to not appear in person was sparked by tensions in the party, specifically the rejection of his pick for chair of the Illinois Democratic Party.

The state party chose U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly over Chicago Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) — Pritzker’s choice — to succeed former chair Mike Madigan in a March vote of party leaders.

Pritzker dismissed any suggestion his decision not to break bread with the county chairs next week was sparked by his own loss months ago.

“First of all, I’m a big supporter of Robin Kelly. I think she’s a wonderful congressperson. Second, unfortunately, when we had to make a change because it was an indoor event, I made plans, so I won’t be able to attend,” Pritzker said.

“But I’m going to be providing — and so will [Lt.Gov] Juliana [Stratton] — a video. We want to make sure we communicate to everybody ‘these are our allies and friends, the county chairs from across the state and all the elected officials.’ So, although I can’t be there in person, I’ll be there in spirit and, of course, via video.”