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Democratic county chairmen endorse Pritzker for governor

Democratic Gubernatorial candidates J.B. Pritzker (right) and Ameya Pawar at the Whitney Young High School debate Wednesday. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

The Illinois Democratic County Chairmen Association, which is closely tied to House Speaker Michael Madigan, endorsed J.B. Pritzker for the 2018 gubernatorial race Saturday afternoon.

The head of the association, Doug House, personally endorsed Pritzker in the hotly contested race last month, but said the association’s decision was an “informed” one that “wasn’t taken lightly.”

“We must have a candidate at the top of the ticket who we can rally behind,” House said. “We need a candidate to present a vision and a path to victory. I believe personally J.B. is the right person and now the organization does too.”

The nod is the latest for Pritzker, who has also received endorsements from the Cook County Democratic Party, the AFL-CIO, state Comptroller Susana Mendoza and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, among others.

Sixty-five of the chairmen voted for Pritzker. Another 17 voted for Chris Kennedy and eight voted not to endorse. Some — the association is composed of 102 county chairmen — chose not to vote, or were unable to.

Eight democrats are currently running for the state’s highest office. Two — state senator Daniel Biss and Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar — have legislative experience, and two others — Kennedy and Pritzker — have name recognition.

Also running for the chance to face Gov. Bruce Rauner are Bob Daiber, the regional superintendent of schools for downstate Madison County; perennial candidate Robert Marshall and civil engineer and business owner Alex Paterakis. Former director of CeaseFire Tio Hardiman is also running for the office.

Illinois Republican Party spokesman Aaron DeGroot said the endorsement is “the latest chapter in a years-long pattern of bending to Madigan’s will.” The county chairs group, he wrote, “has long been an instrument to support Madigan’s vulnerable House members, and now they’re being used by Madigan to coronate Pritzker with the Democratic nomination for governor.”

In his speech, Pritzker emphasized Democrats being on the offense now, creating jobs and ensuring health care for all Illinois residents.

He said “winning statewide is everything his campaign is about.”

“Rauner has tried to separate the state and the Democratic party, but he has failed,” Pritzker said. “From unions, to students to senior citizens, we’ve all come together to stop Rauner.”

In the months leading up to the Democratic primary in March, Pritzker said he would continue to “win over as many Democrats” around the state as he could. The election isn’t just about beating Rauner, he said, it’s about “electing Democrats in this state and being ready to win up and down the ballot.”

“Rauner has failed at every aspect of being governor,” Pritzker said. “I think a governor should wake up every day thinking about how to raise wages and how to make the lives of residents better.”