As Illinois Governor JB Pritzker comes to the end of his four-year term, residents of Evanston are gearing up for this year’s Illinois gubernatorial primaries on June 28.
The winners of the Democratic and Republican primaries will run for governor in the Nov. 8 midterm general election. Illinois residents will also vote for their next senator, congressional representatives and other local offices in the November elections.
Local Democratic leaders and activist groups hope to keep the governor’s mansion. Pritzker is running for re-election and is facing healthcare worker and US Army veteran Beverly Miles in the Democratic primary.
Natalie Edelstein, director of communications at JB for Governor, said Pritzker’s re-election campaign is focused on his accomplishments to date as governor.
“Since the first day, [Pritzker] and Lieutenant Governor Stratton fought to put Springfield back on the side of working families and delivered on their campaign promises, from raising the minimum wage to creating more accessible and affordable colleges, to balance budgets four years in a row,” Edelstein said. The Daily.
In the Republican primary, eight candidates are vying for the gubernatorial nomination. Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin (R-Aurora) and State Sen. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) have both garnered media attention in the Republican race.
Irvin, a former prosecutor, accused Pritzker of being soft on crime, while Bailey campaigned on issues including the economy, pro-life legislation and Second Amendment rights.
While primary elections are usually held in March, the Illinois General Assembly voted to push back the primaries until June 28 to account for delayed 2020 census data.
Rachel Ruttenberg, chairwoman of the Evanston Democratic Party board, said she was concerned the delay could impact voter turnout in Evanston.
“While I know Evanston residents are generally politically active and passionate about governance, I fear we will be challenged to vote at the end of June,” Ruttenberg said.
Nationally, voter turnout in primary elections is generally lower than in general elections, according to FairVote, an electoral reform advocacy group.
Ruttenberg, however, said he thought views on the pandemic economy and Pritzker’s current performance would likely bring residents to the polls.
“We are strongly behind Governor Pritzker,” Ruttenberg said. “I personally think he’s done a great job, especially in navigating the pandemic and keeping Illinois safe as much as he could, as well as improving our financial situation across the state.”
Rosie Rees, co-manager of Indivisible Evanston, said members are most concerned about what the candidates have promised to do at the state level to preserve rights that have been debated at the national level. Key issues for the group include gun control, abortion access and voting rights, Rees said.
Blair Garber, Republican GOP committee member from Evanston Township, said he expects taxes and the economy to be top of mind for voters.
“Not many people are happy with Pritzker’s tax increases, his shutdowns, and all the other things he’s done,” Garber said.
As elections approach, candidates’ eyes turn to campaign donors. Pritzker, whose family operates Hyatt hotels, has already invested $125 million in his re-election campaign.
Hedge fund founder and the state’s wealthiest resident, Ken Griffin, donated $20 million to Irvin’s campaign. Billionaire Richard Uihlein donated $3.5 million to Bailey’s campaign.
Nationally, the 2022 midterm elections are expected to pose a challenge to the Democratic Party, which currently holds a narrow majority in the Senate and House of Representatives.
The incumbent’s party historically does poorly midterm. As President Joe Biden’s approval rating stands at 42%, Garber said he believes there has been a nationwide “seismic shift” toward the Republican Party. In last year’s gubernatorial races, Republican Glenn Youngkin beat Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia and Democrat Phil Murphy narrowly beat his Republican challenger in New Jersey.
In 2018, Pritzker defeated Republican Governor Bruce Rauner to become governor. Before Rauner, the last two governors of Illinois were Democrats. That year, 84% of Evanston voters supported Pritzker.
In an election where many questions and positions rest on the ballot, Rees encourages Evanston residents to show good citizenship by heading to the polls on June 28.
“I would just encourage people, and especially people who are on [NU’s] campuses who are eligible to vote in this election, get out and vote,” Rees said.
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