Gov. J.B. Pritzker looks on as Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Past campaign tactics rebound against Pritzker and Lightfoot

Gov. Pritzker is on the defensive over his administration’s handling of coronavirus outbreaks at the state-run LaSalle Veterans Home, while Mayor Lightfoot is in hot water over the botched raid of a Chicago social worker’s home.

SHARE Past campaign tactics rebound against Pritzker and Lightfoot

There’s an adage that applies to the painful situations in which Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot currently find themselves.

I just can’t figure out whether it’s “you reap what you sow” or “what goes around comes around.”

Opinion bug


Pritzker was the first to find himself sampling the bitter taste of his own medicine.

While a candidate for governor in 2018, Pritzker poured millions of dollars into hammering former Gov. Bruce Rauner for the deaths from Legionnaires’ disease of 13 residents at the state-operated Quincy Veterans Home, accusing him of “fatally mismanaging” the situation.

Now Pritzker is on the defensive over his own administration’s handling of coronavirus outbreaks at the state-run LaSalle Veterans Home, which so far have claimed the lives of 33 residents.

Meanwhile, Lightfoot is reeling from her own self-induced predicament.

When Lightfoot ran for mayor in 2019, she was quick to capitalize on the fallout over Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handling of the long-withheld police video of the shooting of Laquan McDonald, framing her opposition to the incumbent mayor around her image as a police reform advocate.

Now she’s in full damage control mode over another undivulged video of a damning incident involving Chicago police.

This one chronicles the botched raid on the home of Anjanette Young, a completely innocent woman terrorized and inhumanely treated by officers who broke down her door and left her naked and handcuffed as they searched the wrong apartment.

The raid actually took place in the waning weeks of the Emanuel administration in February 2019, but it was Lightfoot’s team that kept the video under wraps and gave Young the city’s usual blame-the-victim treatment when she took the matter to court. On Sunday, Lightfoot’s personal friend, Corporation Counsel Mark Flessner, paid the price with his resignation.

Lightfoot says she never saw the video until it aired on CBS Channel 2, which broke the story last week with a very solid piece of reporting.

The worst part is that Lightfoot initially denied knowing anything about it, then had to admit records show she had been informed about the case a year earlier when Channel 2 aired a story about the incident without the video. She said she has no recollection of the internal exchange.

Exactly what she was told remains unclear. She has promised to release an email exchange but has yet to do so.

To top it off, city lawyers inexplicably tried to block CBS from airing the video, as ham-handed a bit of high-level lawyering that you’ll encounter.

You’ll recall that Emanuel always claimed he never saw the video of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke gunning down McDonald in the street.

If there was one subject matter on which I would have expected Lightfoot to put her administration on notice it would have been police misconduct — and more especially police misconduct captured on video.

The internal rule should have been simple: Do the right thing. Approach these matters from a standpoint of transparency, compassion and general decency toward the victims.

But somehow that message didn’t get through to her Law Department, which treated Young and her federal lawsuit dismissively.

Also, if I knew there was a bad video out there (Lightfoot says she didn’t), I’d sure as hell want to see it immediately.

By the same token, I would have expected Pritzker to put his administration on high alert from the moment he took office about the safety and welfare of the men and women residing at the state’s veterans homes.

When COVID-19 hit and it quickly became evident that nursing homes and similar long-term care facilities were at particular risk, I would have expected him to double down on that emphasis.

I’m not saying Pritzker is responsible for the deaths caused by an-out-of-control virus during a global pandemic, but that’s the standard he set during the campaign.

Pritzker is arguing the difference between his situation and Rauner’s was his predecessor had tried to cover up the problems in Quincy. Perhaps, but Pritzker definitely tried to leave the impression that Rauner was responsible for the deaths, explicitly so when he included the crack about fatal mismanagement in a subsequent attack on Rauner over an apparent unrelated norovirus outbreak at the facility.

Rich Miller, whose CapitolFax blog is the bible of Illinois political news, has a saying that “governors own,” meaning governors bear responsibility for the problems of state government.

The same holds true for the mayor of Chicago. Mayors own, too. If something happens on their watch, it’s their responsibility. They get the blame.

That’s not always fair, but it’s how it works.

Pritzker and Lightfoot both took advantage of this truth. Now they’re on the receiving end.

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