J.B. Pritzker, a key Biden surrogate, builds up nonprofit group as 2024 looms

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CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, widely considered a contender for a future White House run, is bulking up hiring at a nonprofit committee he launched that combats abortion restrictions and political extremism.

Pritzker’s Think Big America has hired Christina Amestoy as its communications director after she previously worked at the Democratic Governors Association for four years. At the DGA, she was a top communications strategist in competitive governor's races, including campaigns in Arizona, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada and Illinois.

Bringing in Amestoy is a signal Pritzker is looking to push a more national narrative with his group come 2024. He has stepped up his advocacy for the Democratic Party and President Joe Biden's re-election, particularly in recent months. That has included holding a fundraiser for the Democratic National Convention, which will be held in Chicago next year.

Last month, Pritzker headlined an event for Wisconsin Democrats and argued that Biden, much maligned because of his age, should instead be praised because it was an asset. Last week, Pritzker traveled to Florida, where he took part in counterprogramming during the Republican presidential primary debate in Miami.

After that, Pritzker joined Biden during his visit to an auto plant in Belvidere, Illinois.

"My buddy," Biden said of Pritzker at a fundraising reception after the auto plant visit. "The governor is as responsible for my being behind this podium as anybody. He’s helped me so much. I didn’t even realize how much he helped until about a year after I got elected. But thank you, Gov. Appreciate it."

Pritzker has long defended abortion rights and held up Illinois as a beacon of reproductive freedom in the Midwest, welcoming women from red states.

Amestoy joins Think Big America as it ramps up its 2024 efforts. The group is a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization, which does not have to disclose its donors. But as of now, Pritzker is the only donor, according to the group.

Pritzker, a billionaire, has sunk his personal money into the group to fund efforts in competitive races. That includes the group's donating $250,000 to Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights in the state’s ballot measure vote last week, when voters chose to add protections for reproductive health decisions to the state constitution. Members of Think Big worked as strategists in the Ohio effort, and Pritzker gave $750,000 personally to the effort to defend abortion.

In the Virginia elections, Think Big also gave $250,000 to a combination of the state Democratic Party and support in four state Senate districts that could have been decisive, the group said.

The group has also invested $1 million in Nevada, which is pursuing a 2024 ballot initiative to protect abortion in the state. And according to Amestoy, the group is in conversations to possibly assist the on-the-ground effort in Arizona.

Asked whether the Think Big effort telegraphed Pritzker’s future prospects as a presidential contender, Amestoy said: “The governor is extremely happy being governor right now. … He’s looking at what’s at stake. He sees himself as having a role.”

In a launch video last month, Pritzker described Think Big America as a vehicle to battle extremism, with a particular initial focus on supporting abortion rights. In addition to laws overturning reproductive rights, he referred to book bans, a rollback of voting rights and erosion of trust in government institutions as the results of a more extreme Republican Party.

“That will be our permanent reality if we don’t act now,” he said.

Mike Ollen, a senior adviser for Think Big America, wrote in an email: “We were honored to work alongside champions for reproductive rights in Ohio to reverse the state’s abortion ban and to support leaders in Virginia who prevented right-wing extremists from eliminating the South’s last oasis for abortion access. We will continue to defeat extreme policies across the country because, at Think Big America, we trust women. Period.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com