New Yorker article profiles Pritzker; details visit to Quincy


When Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker visited Quincy this past summer, a writer working on a profile accompanied him. — Photo J. Robert Gough


“Last fall, on a sunny day in the Chicago exurbs, J. B. Pritzker, well on his way to reëlection as the Democratic governor of Illinois, was knocking on a few doors and talking up his candidacy. A Republican had won every gubernatorial election in DuPage County since 1932, until Pritzker came along. He high-fived a kid on a bicycle and shouted “I love Star Wars!” to a boy wearing a Luke Skywalker shirt, smiling and joking as he went from house to house.

On Election Day, Pritzker won DuPage by fifteen points, and Deb Conroy became the first Democrat in seventy-five years to be elected chair of the county board. What had changed? A strong Democratic ground game, unpalatable G.O.P. candidates, and assertive approaches to abortion and assault weapons—two issues that once powered Republican turnout. “When the Supreme Court overturned abortion rights, it really got everyone’s attention,” Conroy told me, explaining that Republican moderates moved strongly to the Democrats. “What was left was the far-right and the Donald Trump ride-or-die folks,” she said. Then, there was Pritzker himself, who telegraphed a brisk, progressive, conspicuously well-funded message that he believes can carry Democrats to victory across the country in November, 2024.”

The Quincy part of the article

“This summer, I joined Pritzker on a jet that he chartered to Peoria, and then to Quincy, downstate, in a more conservative part of Illinois, where Democrats traditionally fall short. (A publicity-minded aide pulled me aside to report that Pritzker had paid for carbon credits to offset the trip.) Pritzker’s focus in Peoria was poverty prevention, which he called a moral imperative. He told one group that a recent spike in homelessness reflects not only a need for housing but for services, such as transportation and mental-health treatment, that can prevent people from becoming unhoused in the first place. In Quincy, he spoke in a basketball gym (John Wood Community College) about his efforts to make community college more affordable, with annual tuition grants from the state up seventy-five per cent, to seven hundred million dollars, since he took office. He had heard that nearby roadwork was causing traffic jams, and offered an apology. “You can blame me,” he said. “Trust me, over the next twenty years, we’re all going to benefit from the investments we’re making.” Pritzker understands the importance of P.R. Tammy Duckworth, the Democratic senator, told me, “If there’s a ribbon-cutting for an infrastructure project anywhere in the state, we’re going to show up, even if it’s, like, reopening a drinking fountain.”

Peter Slevin is a contributing writer to The New Yorker, based in Chicago and focussing on politics. He teaches at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

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