Before letting young people leap over his head Wednesday afternoon, Secretary of State Jesse White endorsed J.B. Pritzker for governor.
White stood as a prop for the troupe of gymnasts that bear his name, the Jesse White Tumblers, before the lovefest that accompanies political endorsements ensued.
The 83-year-old Democrat, speaking from a community gymnasium in the Noble Square neighborhood, gushed about “my good friend J.B. Pritzker” and his mastery of the “art of compromise.”
In seeking to burnish support in the African-American community, Pritzker found a key ally in White.
As Illinois’ only African-American statewide elected official, White is a political icon in the black community. And he’s respected for his cordial and calm demeanor on both sides of the aisle.
The veteran pol, first elected to his current office in 1998, announced last week he’ll seek reelection.
Asked whether he’d been in endorsement chats with Chris Kennedy, Pritzker’s main Democratic primary rival, White said “I talked with Chris Kennedy at the Democratic Convention and that was the only conversation I had with him.”
Pritzker, when asked by a reporter about why, in his opinion, there’s never been a black governor in Illinois, pivoted instead to mentioning his running mate, state Rep. Juliana Stratton, who is African-American.
“I think she’d make an excellent governor and I’m so glad we’re running mates,” he said.
Asked more broadly about issues of race in the gubernatorial contest, Pritzker stated: “There are important issues that face the Latino community, the African-American community, the Asian community, the white community, but these are not racial issues specifically. We have economic issues, we have healthcare issues, we have education issues.”
Wednesday’s event ended with White and Pritzker raising their clasped hands in the air, along with Stratton and another supporter, Chicago Ald. Water Burnett (27th).