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Pritzker endorses Croke in race for Illinois House district that includes gov’s home

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot are backing different candidates in 12th House District primary race.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker endorsed Margaret Croke in the 12th District Democratic primary for Illinois House.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker (left) and Margaret Croke.
Sun-Times file photos

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Sunday threw his support behind former campaign staffer Margaret Croke over Yoni Pizer and three other candidates in a North Side statehouse primary race that’s forcing some powerful Illinois Democrats to pick sides.

It’s a somewhat rare show of support from Pritzker, who has shied away from making endorsements for state representatives or senators.

But for the 12th Illinois House District seat that includes the freshman governor’s Gold Coast home, Pritzker chimed in for Croke as the shuffling of city legislative seats continues following former Illinois Senate President John Cullerton’s surprise retirement earlier this year.

“Margaret has been a leader and activist fighting to protect women’s health and reproductive rights,” Pritzker said in a statement. “She is a thoughtful and engaged advocate for early childhood education, college affordability and more economic opportunities — the kind of leader you and your family can depend on.”

Croke served as the director of women’s outreach in Pritzker’s gubernatorial campaign and is a deputy chief of staff at the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

She’s squaring off against Pizer, who was appointed to the 12th House District seat last week to replace former state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, who now holds the 6th Senate District seat vacated by Cullerton.

Yoni Pizer (left) and Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Yoni Pizer (left) and Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Sun-Times file photos

Pritzker’s endorsement puts him at odds Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is supporting Pizer in the race. Pizer works as a community liaison for U.S. Rep Mike Quigley, D-Ill., and was an early supporter of Lightfoot when she was considered a long-shot candidate for City Hall’s fifth floor.

But they’re not the only powerful Democrats taking different sides in the race. Croke’s backers include City Clerk Anna Valencia; state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill; U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.; other Pritzker allies and several major organized labor groups. Pizer’s backers include Illinois House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago; state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago; and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th).

Also on the March 17 primary ballot for the 12th District statehouse seat are Democrats Jimmy Garfield, Marty Malone and Ryan Podges.