CAPITOL RECAP: Illinois Democrats hoping to host 2024 nominating convention

CAPITOL RECAP: Illinois Democrats hoping to host 2024 nominating convention

By CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Democrats are vying to make Chicago the host city for the Democratic National Convention in 2024.

Officials for the Democratic National Committee were in Chicago on Tuesday as state leaders, including Gov. JB Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, called a news conference to tout the city as a potential host for the Democrats’ 2024 nominating convention.

DNC Chair Jaime Harrison said at a Tuesday morning news conference in Chicago the committee was looking for a city that represents diversity, inclusion and opportunity. He said it will be the first big showcase for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who didn’t have a convention in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other finalist cities include New York City, Atlanta and Houston.

Pritzker, whose name has frequently been mentioned in the conversation as a potential replacement for Biden if he doesn’t run in 2024, said he looks at the convention as an opportunity “to show off” the city, which “represents what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris represent.”

“This is what it looks like when Americans vote for leaders who support hardworking families,” Pritzker said, citing “policies of a fair minimum wage, expanding voting rights, protecting civil rights and human rights, and standing up for the right to choose.”

Pritzker said the convention would bring “thousands of good-paying, labor-friendly jobs” and 50,000 visitors to the state. Lightfoot estimated it could generate $150 million to $200 million in spending in the local economy.

* * *

DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR: Illinois Democrats are scheduled to choose the leader of the state party for the next four years Saturday, July 30, in Springfield.

The post is currently held by Congresswoman Robin Kelly, of Matteson. She won that title in March 2021 over Pritzker’s preferred candidate, Chicago Ald. Michelle Harris.

Kelly was elected to replace former state House Speaker Michael Madigan, who stepped down last year after failing to gain another term as House speaker. He was the state’s party leader from April 1998 until February 2021.

The party’s state central committee, made up of 17 men and 17 women from the state’s congressional districts, will vote on who will chair the party. Each committeeperson’s vote is weighted based on the number of Democratic ballots cast in the congressional district.

Because Kelly is a sitting congresswoman, she is unable to raise money for candidates in state races, although she has no restrictions on fundraising for federal races. While the party created a fundraising committee for state races, the fundraising issue remains a key point of contention.

The latest campaign filings from the Democratic Party of Illinois’ state fund show it raised $1.72 million in the quarter ending June 30, $1.5 million of which was transferred from Pritzker’s campaign fund. The party’s state fund expended $10,424.47 for the quarter that ended June 30, excluding Pritzker-funded mailers. In the previous quarter, the DPI state fund spent $11,240.06. Its balance as of June 30 was $2.8 million.

But the party also maintains a federal fund registered through the Federal Election Commission, and DPI spokesperson Jake Lewis said the party has raised over $2 million since Kelly took over as party chair between the two funds, not including Pritzker’s transfers.

“Under Robin Kelly’s leadership, the Democratic Party of Illinois has been overhauled from top to bottom, with new staff and vendors, upgraded data and technology services, party organizers, an active communications shop, and more,” he said in an email. “Chair Kelly’s vision for the party is one that serves all Democrats across our state, beyond just one candidate or one caucus, and we will continue to move our party forward.”

“We encourage Democrats to focus on the issues that matter to the people of this state, like defending our fundamental rights and defeating Republicans in the November,” Lewis added.

Pritzker and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch are supporting state Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero, an assistant majority leader in the state House who carried the recent congressional and state redistricting bills through the General Assembly.

“This means having a chair that can fundraise for all Democratic candidates,” Welch said in a statement.

Welch said Hernandez’s “vision” would be to create a new role for Kelly as “federal chair.”

“They can work in partnership to lead the party forward,” he said in the statement. “This is how we have Democrats be more supported as we face two Supreme Court races, dozens of legislative campaigns, and other races up and down the ballot.”

Welch said it is “critical” that the leader of the state party can raise and spend funds that support all Democratic candidates across the state.

The powerful AFL-CIO federation of labor unions issued a statement shortly after Welch’s supporting Hernandez as well.

U.S. Sen Dick Durbin remains Kelly’s most prominent backer.

* * *

KINZINGER CENSURE: Republicans, meanwhile, were dealing with intraparty tensions of their own as state lawmakers in the conservative Freedom Caucus called on the party to censure U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, for his role as an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump on the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

State Reps. Chris Miller, Brad Halbrook, Dan Caulkins, Adam Niemerg, and Blaine Wilhour – some of GOP governor candidate Darren Bailey’s closest allies in the Illinois General Assembly – called for the state party to censure Kinzinger and called the Jan. 6 hearings “a sham without any due process.”

The state party issued a statement saying it was “focused on uniting the party to defeat Gov. Pritzker in November and make Illinois a safe and affordable place for people to live.”

Bailey, at a news conference called to criticize the governor’s handling of the state Department of Children and Family Services, didn’t answer directly whether he thought Kinzinger should be censured.

“I have dealt with Adam Kinzinger on my own,” he said. “I’ve made my statements. I don’t agree with anything that Adam Kinzinger stands for. And I’ve made the statement.”

Trump endorsed Bailey in the primary.

* * *

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE: The Illinois economy added 18,800 jobs during June as the unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent, the lowest it has been since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That is down one-tenth of a percentage point from May, and down two full percentage points from June 2021.

Preliminary numbers released Thursday, July 21, by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Illinois Department of Employment Security showed the sectors with the biggest gains during June were leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, construction, and educational and health services.

Slight declines were reported in the financial industry and the catch-all category “other services.”

“With the statewide unemployment rate at its lowest since the onset of the pandemic, the data released (Thursday) is a further reflection of continued economic recovery and evidence of a strengthening Illinois labor market,” Deputy Governor Andy Manar said in a statement.

Prior to the pandemic, Illinois had seen its lowest unemployment rate ever, at 3.5 percent in December 2019. It climbed to 4.9 percent in March 2020, when the World Health Organization declared a pandemic existed, and reached a historic high of 17.4 percent in April 2020 after restaurants, bars, theaters and other “nonessential” businesses were ordered to close in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

The state’s jobless rate has since been on a continuous downward trend as businesses gradually reopened.

The trend in Illinois mirrors what has been happening nationally, although the state continues to lag behind the rest of the country in its recovery. The U.S. unemployment rate stood at 3.6 percent, unchanged from the month before but down from its peak of 14.7 percent in April 2020.

Illinois’ unemployment rate also stood higher than all of its surrounding states. Indiana, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin all had jobless rates below 3 percent while Kentucky stood at 3.7 percent. In fact, the 4.5 percent rate recorded in Illinois was the fifth highest in the nation. Pennsylvania and Delaware also were at 4.5 percent.

* * *

PRITZKER APPROVAL: A new poll from the firm Morning Consult showed Gov. JB Pritzker’s approval rating at 51 percent among Illinois voters, or seven points “above water” in polling lingo.

It’s the latest quarterly poll from the firm, and data included 14,258 registered voters polled from April 1 through June 30.

While it’s a truism of polling that any poll is just a “snapshot in time,” Pritzker’s numbers have been remarkably consistent in the Morning Consult measurements since January 2021. His approval has ranged from 50 to 51 percent while disapproval ranged from 43 to 44 percent.

President Joe Biden’s approval rating in Illinois as measured by the same firm, however, is an example of how quickly public sentiment can change.

Morning Consult distributed the polling results under the headline “Democratic Governors Facing Re-Election Are Resisting Biden’s Drag Effect.” The firm measured Biden’s approval at 47 percent in Illinois while disapproval measured at 50 percent.

It was a major drop from one year prior for Biden, who logged a healthy 58-38 approval-disapproval rating in Illinois for the quarter ending in June 2021.

The discrepancies between the approval ratings of Biden and Democratic governors help explain the level of intrigue in national news outlets regarding Biden potentially being replaced atop the Democratic ticket in the 2024 election cycle.

Pritzker’s name – along with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had a 53-40 approval split according to the poll – has been floated time and again in that conversation. Many news outlets, including Capitol News Illinois, have asked him about his plans should Democrats seek a new presidential candidate next time around.

He hasn’t directly denied an interest in a presidential run, but he told me at the end of June that Illinois remains his focus

The intrigue has also been largely stoked by the governor’s recent speaking engagements.

In June he spoke at a gathering of Democrats in New Hampshire, normally one of the country’s first states to hold a primary, and last weekend he spoke at Florida Democrats’ Leadership Blue gala.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, the Xenia farmer who gained the GOP nomination and has vowed not to be outworked in the race for governor, saw Pritzker’s recent East Coast trip as a line of attack.

“Gov. JB Pritzker spent the weekend hobnobbing in Florida with wealthy liberals and fueling his presidential ambitions,” Bailey’s campaign said in a Monday news release. “Meanwhile in Illinois, rampant crime continued unabated. Seven people were killed over the weekend in Chicago, and eight carjackings terrorized Chicago neighborhoods in the span of just one hour.”

* * *

CAMPAIGN FUNDING: Bailey’s battle will be uphill on the fundraising front as he looks to knock off the incumbent, who is partial heir of the Hyatt hotel fortune and has a net worth of $3-4 billion.

Gov. JB Pritzker’s campaign fund had $60.8 million cash on hand as of June 30, while Bailey’s campaign fund had just $363,918. Pritzker’s campaign spent $27 million from April to June, while Bailey’s camp spent $9.2 million.

Bailey’s main financial backer has been Richard Uihlein, founder of the shipping supply company Uline, having donated $9 million to the candidate and $8 million to other political action committees working on Bailey’s behalf during the primary. Uihlein gave another $5 million to the pro-Bailey People Who Play By the Rule PAC on July 6.

Irvin’s campaign ended June with $763,515 cash on hand, having spent $40.5 million.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government that is distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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