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Pritzker campaign insists it didn’t wag the dog in new TV commercial

Democrat J.B. Pritzker appears with a puppy in his latest ad the governor's race. Screen image.

Democrat J.B. Pritzker appears with a puppy in his latest ad the governor's race. Screen image.

It turns out, Democrat J.B. Pritzker is a dog owner — in addition to playing one on TV.

“I love puppies,” Pritzker says in his latest campaign commercial as a dog happily licks his face.

When the Chicago Sun-Times first saw the new spot, Pritzker’s campaign told the newspaper that the candidate did not own any dogs of his own.

But after the Sun-Times posted a report on the ad — and the Pritzker family pet status — the Democrat’s campaign officials announced they were mistaken.

The Pritzkers “love dogs” and have five rescue dogs at their Wisconsin farm: “Marley, sisters Tinkerbell and Suki, Cooper, and Buddy,” campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen said.

With 98 days to go before the November election, the Pritzker pooches became a campaign issue after the Democrat released a new ad in which he gets kisses from a puppy while blasting Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner as a failure and dubbing the governor’s blame-game “ridiculous.”

Democrat J.B. Pritzker appears with a puppy in his latest ad the governor's race. Screen image.

Democrat J.B. Pritzker appears with a puppy in his latest ad the governor’s race. Screen image.

The ad is light-hearted, and perhaps a response to a recent Rauner campaign ad in which workers are seen hauling dozens of toilets from a mansion to highlight a property tax break Pritzker received by in part disabling toilets from the home.

The Democrat is also responding to a Rauner ad called “Works For Madigan,” which calls Pritzker Madigan’s hand-picked candidate.

The new Pritzker ad focuses on Rauner’s “Blame Madigan” game. But it seeks to address criticism over Pritzker’s relationship to Madigan, whom Rauner and the Illinois Republican Party have for years branded as toxic.

Pritzker’s Democratic campaign for governor is backed by heavy-hitting state Democrats and unions, many allied with the powerful House speaker. But Pritzker has been careful not to signal public support for Madigan given the veteran legislator’s growing unpopularity with some voters.

The new spot starts with images of Pritzker and Madigan.

“Mike Madigan hates puppies. Mike Madigan hates sunshine. J.B. Pritzker and Mike Madigan are Democrats. So J.B. Pritzker must hate puppies, and sunshine,” a narrator says in a 30-second ad that will begin airing on television on Wednesday.

“It’s ridiculous,” Pritzker says in the ad. “Bruce Rauner is a failure, and he blames everyone but himself. As a businessman, I’ve helped create thousands of jobs by bringing people together to solve problems and get results. And that’s what I’ll do as governor.”

The ad closes with Pritzker holding a puppy happily licking the candidate’s chin.

“And for the record, I love puppies,” Pritzker says.

Either way, the Rauner campaign wasn’t biting.

“JB Pritzker may love puppies, but it’s clear he loves Mike Madigan more. Pritzker and Madigan both want to raise taxes, turn a blind eye to corruption, and put their own political ambition ahead of protecting victims of sexual harassment,” spokesman Will Allison said.

And it turns out Madigan doesn’t hate puppies or sunshine, the speaker’s spokesman said.

“He thinks they’re very important parts of society,” Steve Brown said.

“And there’s no real record of him hating puppies and sunshine.”

Brown also disputed Rauner’s portrayal of the speaker.

“There’s no real record of the corruption claims that Bruce Rauner makes. Any of them,” Brown said. “It’s a pretty consistent thing. Rauner has consistently hung his hat on it, failing to accomplish anything as governor and blaming it all on Madigan. And it’s all showing in the data and what he’s going through right now that it hasn’t worked.”

For his part, the governor cites as accomplishments his fight to end corruption in state government, his push for education funding and his work in criminal justice reform.

As for dogs, the Republican has a hunting dog named “Stella,” described by the Rauners in May as “chief greeter” at the governor’s mansion.  Another pooch, named “Pumpkin,” died in 2016.