Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced his widely anticipated bid for reelection Monday and acknowledged his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic will be the overarching issue in the 2022 race.
“When I ran for governor four years ago, I could not have imagined that I would end up leading the state through a pandemic,” Pritzker said in a three minute video focused on the way he dealt with COVID-19 issues which accompanied his reelection announcement.
Pritzker acknowledged that “I may not have gotten every decision right” in handling the pandemic, which involved his use of emergency orders restricting public activity. But, he said, at every step he “followed the science” to protect residents.
“Part of why I’m running for reelection is because I watched the heroes across our state step up and do the right thing. We had so much to accomplish and we were able to do that together,” he said. “I’m very proud of all of the people in the state of Illinois. And, we have so much more we can do together.”
While Pritzker’s decision was widely expected, particularly after he put $35 million of his own money into his campaign account in March, the governor had been silent publicly about his reelection plans — an effort to show he was more focused on the pandemic and governance than politics.
Now, with less than a year until the state’s newly moved June 28 primary, the wealthy heir to the Hyatt fortune believes the state is far enough along in dealing with COVID-19 to issue his first reelection campaign message.
Pritzker, 56 and worth an estimated $3.5 billion according to Forbes, spent $171 million of his own money to defeat one-term Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2018.
Pritzker’s campaign video takes a swipe at former President Donald Trump and his administration’s handling of the pandemic, with an announcer saying, “In Washington, science took a back seat to politics. But in Illinois, we knew the stakes were too high.”
The reference to Trump, whom Pritzker frequently criticized, also was a subtle shot at the three announced Republican candidates for governor — Burr Ridge businessman Gary Rabine, state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo.
All three have sought to align themselves with their party’s Trump supporters and have been critical of Pritzker’s stay-home orders and limits on public gatherings both at work and for social occasions, as well as his rules on masks, during the pandemic.
Bailey was unsuccessful in repeated attempts to legally challenge Pritzker’s authority to issue emergency orders regarding public regulation and business access rules during the pandemic. At one point last year, Bailey was removed from the floor of a temporary Illinois House chamber for refusing to wear a mask.
In addition to arguing for his handling of the pandemic Pritzker can point to a number of legislative successes in his first term, including a major infrastructure plan, a minimum wage hike set to hit $15 per hour in 2025, the legalization of marijuana and a number initiatives including a criminal justice overhaul pushed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.