Democratic candidate for governor Chris Kennedy suggested Monday that rival JB Pritzker used "racist" language in a wiretapped conversation with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The decade-old recording, which came from an FBI investigation of the former governor and was published by the Chicago Tribune last week, has prompted Pritzker to apologize.
On the recording, Pritzker said Blagojevich ought to appoint Secretary of State Jesse White to the Senate seat being being vacated by Barack Obama, saying it "covers you on the African American thing." He also said White would be the "least offensive" African-American he could pick.
Kennedy, who met with the Quad-City Times editorial board on Monday, said the recordings, which also have been used by Gov. Bruce Rauner in a series of negative TV ads, portray Pritzker as someone trying to "curry favor" with Blagojevich.
"As to the more racist conversation in there, I mean the truth is that there are bad racial outcomes, structural racial outcomes in the state of Illinois," Kennedy said. "And this resonates with people of color and it’s like insult to injury, and they feel largely that they’ve been injured by the decisions made by government."
Asked whether he thought Pritzker was a racist, Kennedy responded: "That's a better question for Pritzker. But is that not the language of a racist? I don’t know. It sounds like the language of a racist to me.”
Galia Slayen, a spokesperson for the Pritzker campaign responded: "JB has apologized for what he said on that call and for not pushing back harder on the governor. JB has a clear record of fighting to advance the values of social and economic justice and civil rights and that’s exactly what he’ll do as governor. No amount of name calling from Chris Kennedy will change that."
Last week in Chicago, Pritzker said that he regretted the conversation and his choice of words. "I clearly made a mistake that day and I clearly wasn't my best self," he said.
White, who has endorsed Pritzker, said last week he was not offended.
Pritzker has been considered the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to run against Rauner, but recent polls show a tightening race.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)