SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker sailed to reelection Tuesday but in a triumphant victory speech, sounded more like a candidate for president with the clarion call, “Are you ready to fight?” in warning against extremism and former President Donald Trump’s “treasonous insurrection,” which he said too many Republicans embrace.
The Democrat seized a second term over Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey, who eagerly sought Trump's endorsement, and in a Chicago speech underscored by frequent chants of “J.B.! J.B.! J.B.!” he hinted at pursuit of an agenda that is far larger than Springfield.
Ever the student of history, Pritzker, Illinois' third Jewish governor, noted that the state's first, Henry Horner, took office in 1933 in the darkest days of the Great Depression and with European fascism spawning.
“Horner said, ‘We all realize that we are living in abnormal and unusual times, times requiring unusually clear thinking and sacrificial action ... ’” Pritzker recalled. “That was Henry Horner's way of asking his audience, ‘Are you ready for the fight?’”
Pritzker boosted his national profile this year with a trip to the early primary state of New Hampshire and by raising millions of dollars for Democrats nationwide. When pressed by Bailey, he said if elected, he intended to serve the entire four years and supported President Joe Biden for reelection in 2024.
On Tuesday, Pritzker sounded like a different candidate. Mere paragraphs were reserved for his Prairie State pursuits including a comfortable living wage, robust health care, and virtually unfettered access to abortion, despite the Supreme Court's upending the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
Instead, he warned of a “cancer” that has spread through “one ideological wing" of his rival Republican party, lead by Trump, who has suggested he'll attempt a comeback.
“They’ve had ample opportunity to treat the disease and they have refused to do so at every turn. The result has been treasonous insurrectionists tearing down the doors of the U.S. Capitol, the maiming of Capitol Police and an attack on the 82-year-old husband of the speaker of the House with a hammer in his own home," Pritzker said, referring to last month's attack on Paul Pelosi.
In a brief concession speech in Springfield, Bailey, who has served single two-year terms in both the House and Senate, promised his career in public service is not ending, but “I'm going back to work” to protect freedom, create jobs and safeguard the streets.
“Republicans need to be the loyal opposition in Springfield: Loyal to our state, loyal to our country, loyal to our Constitution, but in opposition to the radical policies of the Democrats,” Bailey said.
Mentioning he had just congratulated Pritzker by phone, he continued, “Friends, we must work together to find solutions for all the people of Illinois. Illinois, we can be better. Illinois must be better. Our leaders must be better and J.B. Pritzker, you need to be better.”
The campaign was one of almost continuous acrimony between the rivals who each claimed the other was out of touch with voters and the needs of the state. Pritzker, 57, a billionaire equity investor and philanthropist, pounded the airwaves with ads labeling Bailey as “too extreme” on issues such as abortion, which he opposes except in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother, and access to guns.
Bailey, 56, from the southern Illinois town of Xenia, played to the strong support for Trump that remains in large parts of central and southern Illinois and claimed Pritzker's drive to be “ the most radical leftist governor in America” is decimating the state by coddling criminals, offering abortion without restriction and spending too much.
Bailey made crime in Chicago a centerpiece of his campaign and was buffeted by ridicule when he called the nation's third-largest city a “crime-ridden corrupt hellhole." Pritzker countered that Bailey had voted against the Democratic Legislature's investments in police cadets and crime-lab investigative tools and offered no concrete solutions.
Bailey vowed to repeal a Democratic criminal justice overhaul adopted last year that includes ending cash bail for violent offenders. Bailey claims that when it takes effect in January 2023, it will be a “revolving door” for criminals to return to the street while Pritzker said the current system allows wealthy suspects to buy their way to pretrial freedom.
The Republican softened his approach on abortion, saying curbing its availability would not be a priority in his administration and that he expected strong Democratic control of the General Assembly would make it unlikely such legislation would reach the governor's desk.
This story has been corrected to show that Paul Pelosi is 82 years old, not 83.
Follow John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor
Learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections. And follow the AP’s election coverage of the 2022 elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.