Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls J.B. Pritzker, Chris Kennedy and State Sen. Daniel Biss spent much of their Sundays making last-minute pitches to voters at African-American churches — giving priority to an important voting bloc with less than 48 hours to go before election day.
Undecided voters are also on the minds of the candidates, as polls have consistently shown a good percentage of voters haven’t quite made a decision yet — despite an influx of ads inundating the TV and radio waves. Former CeaseFire director Tio Hardiman, Madison County Schools Supt. Bob Daiber and Burr Ridge doctor Robert Marshall round out the crowded field in the heated primary.
Pritzker spent the day touring churches on the South Side, Near West Side and Northwest Side, followed by stops on the Southeast Side and on the North Side. Biss, D-Evanston, visited two Rockford churches, two other events in the northern city and a final get out the vote rally in Crystal Lake. And Kennedy visited five churches on the South Side and in Maywood, in addition to two Chicago poll site stops and a Pilsen cafe.
It’s crunch time, and the African-American vote in Chicago and in surrounding suburbs is crucial, especially in low-turnout primaries. And Pritzker has had to work to rebuild trust with the African-American community in light of an FBI wiretap with imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
At a church stop on the South Side, Kennedy was introduced by WVON radio’s Pam Morris-Walton as someone who “tells the truth.”
“You know his family. You know his sense. You know his values. As he speaks it sounds a little different. It’s more honest. It’s more candid and sometimes I got to say, it’s more raw. But what I love about Chris Kennedy is the truth is not always easy to hear, but he always tells the truth,” said Morris-Walton, who traveled with Kennedy throughout his five church stops.
Kennedy invoked former Mayor Harold Washington at a South Side church, saying he celebrated the things “that brought everybody together,” and “the things that make us unique,” like bringing the gospel fest to the city.
And he reminded churchgoers about disinvestment — the pharmacy and food deserts and discrimination in property taxes — that Chicagoans have seen in poor neighborhoods, something he has vowed to fight against.
“It doesn’t have to be like this. It’s not like this in other states,” Kennedy said.
“If we had a government that treats us like family,” he said, invoking Catholic social justice, which he said creates options for the poor.
Speaking outside the church, Kennedy said his famous family are a part of his get out the vote effort ahead of Tuesday’s election.
“I’ve got family in from all over the United States and they’re spread across all of Illinois, and I’d say all of us feel good about our chances on Tuesday,” Kennedy said. “It feels like support is building and we’re going into the final three days with the wind at our back.”
At a meet and greet with condominium residents at a Southeast Side high-rise, a resident, Ron Davis, 67, told Pritzker he was skeptical of his perceived “commitment” to fighting back against President Donald Trump’s policies. Residents there were handed flyers that vowed that Pritzker will “make the South and West Sides of Chicago a priority.
Pritzker told Davis of the “resistance” movement happening in Illinois, and said he supports the Trust Act — “that we need to protect the immigrant families that live in this state from the raids, from having our police sharing information with the federal government.”
“You ought to have a governor that stands up to Donald Trump on issues like health care,” Pritzker said. “We have a governor who’s utterly silent, I mean truly silent, in the face of a million people losing their health care in the state of Illinois. And yet Republican governors around the nation stood up against Donald Trump. But this governor, here, didn’t. You need a governor who is going to stand up for the people of Illinois at every turn, especially, and I want to say, this is very important, especially when it comes to a president who advocates, sometimes, or doesn’t stand up to racists.”
“I reserve judgment, let’s put it that way,” Davis told the Chicago Sun-Times about whether he’d vote for Pritzker come Tuesday.
Pritzker’s stump speech focused on beating Rauner, with nary a mention of his Democratic opponents. He called the latest polls “irrelevant,” and said getting out the vote “is the only thing that matters.”
“I feel really good traveling across the state. I can say that we have literally thousand and thousands of volunteers. We’ve made hundreds of thousands of phone calls into voters’ home. We’ve knocked on, I think, 100,000 doors over the last three weeks. So I feel very good about our get out the vote operation which is really what these last bunch of days are really all about.”
Biss told Rockford churchgoers he’s running “because there is nothing we cannot do as a people.”
“We’ve been told for so very, very long that it’s not possible to ask the wealthy to pay their share so we can fund our schools. We know that it’s not possible, yet that’s what we’re going to change,” Biss said. “We know we’ve been told it’s not possible that everyone can have have access to health care. We’ve been told that’s too expensive. We’ve been told that it’s too hard. We’ve been hearing that for years.
But we know what’s right. We know what’s just. We know what’s fair. We know what the people of this state deserve in order to live dignified, healthy lives and that’s what we’re going to change,” he said.