JOLIET – Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Chicago venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker was in Joliet on Saturday night, taking questions from members of the Will County Progressives organization.
This isn't the first time Pritzker has been in Will County this year. In March, before he announced he was officially running for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, he was knocking on doors with former Bolingbrook mayoral candidate and Will County Board member Jackie Traynere.
“When I heard he was coming out to my campaign office, I was like holy cow,” Traynere said. “I was so impressed.”
Traynere praised Pritzker's willingness to help her out going “above and beyond” by spending time talking to her supporters and going with her to talk to voters. Such a big name supporter was a welcome to her campaign.
Pritzker was born to a Jewish family with ancestors who came to the U.S. as refugees. His parents, who were from Chicago, began a hotel business and became one of the wealthiest in the county. Both of his parents died by the time he was 18. He attended Duke University for college and Northwestern University for law school.
He found success in the venture capital field investing in technology companies. Since his mother was also a social and economic justice activist, he became very active in Democratic politics supporting issues like women's rights and LGBTQ rights. He ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress in Illinois in 1998, co-chaired Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2008. His older sister Penny served as the Secretary of Commerce in the Obama administration.
So now he's on the campaign trail to unseat Gov. Bruce Rauner who is running for re-election. Pritzker's competition for the Democratic nomination Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy, State Sen. Daniel Biss and Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar have all spoken to the progressive organization and others this year.
Pritzker spent the evening answering policy questions about everything from criminal justice reform, renewable energy investment, and education funding. He also made a point to not criticize his Democratic rivals.
“We should not be beating up on each other,” Pritzker said. “There's one guy we need to take out and it's Bruce Rauner.”
One of the attendees asked Pritzker how he would be able to connect with voters in the central and southern part of the state. Every county in Illinois except Cook County voted for Rauner in 2014. Pritzker said it was important to have a message which would focus on helping the working and middle class.
Before he left, he also wanted to make a point about questions concerning the Democratic party rallying around him, a billionaire, to take on the also wealthy Rauner.
“This race isn't about money,” Pritzker said. “It's about values.”