With the gubernatorial race heating up, billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker has new challenges ahead as a wiretap from the FBI has been made public, revealing Pritzker’s racial attitude within politics.
The ramifications of race in Illinois politics have always been well known as African-Americans make up approximately a third of the vote, according to the Chicago Tribune. This was true even when ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Pritzker conversed on the topic nearly a decade ago in a call that was recorded by the government as part of their investigation into the disgraced governor.
In the call, Pritzker is advising Blagojevich on filling the U.S. Senate seat left open by Barack Obama upon his election to be the first black president. Pritzker suggests Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White in part at least because it “covers you on the African-American thing.”
In the current governor’s contest, the major Democratic players are all white, pairing themselves with an African-American running mate. Pritzker’s comments on the Blagojevich tapes aside, he still has the backing support of Illinois’ top statewide black official, Secretary of State Jesse White, who appeared in a recent commercial for Pritzker.
Upon the release of the conversation, Pritzker has noted that he has “not been accused of any wrongdoing.” When asked to further explain his comments on the recording, Pritzker told the Tribune he thinks more people of color should serve in public office.
“I mean, I think that’s something, I’ve supported a lot of candidates over the years who are people of color,” Pritzker said. “Jesse White’s, I think, a beloved person in the state of Illinois, so I can only imagine that’s what I had in mind.”
Pritzker later said he did not recall the conversation which went on to mock other African-American officials. He said he has always supported civil rights and believes good people should serve in office.
Running against Chris Kennedy put Pritzker against a strong ally of the black community in Illinois, coupled with his comments it is unclear is White’s support will be enough. In an effort to combat this, Pritzker began running his political ads long ago, a move that might be keeping him in the race, according to the Tribune.
Pritzker also has the support of several African-American aldermen in the Chicago community and continues to be backed by other influential people of color despite the comments he made to Blagojevich.