URBANA — Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday that Brandon Johnson’s narrow victory in the Chicago mayoral race is emblematic of a Democratic “Blue Wall” in Illinois and surrounding states.
“I do believe that this is a change for the city, something new. But you know what? It’s a new generation of voters that came to the polls,” Pritzker said during an unrelated news conference on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. “I think he’s part of a kind of a sea change that’s going on in what I guess politically we’d all call ‘the Blue Wall.’ ”
Pritzker and other Democrats have pushed the idea of a “Blue Wall” as part of their effort to persuade national party officials to stage the 2024 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. A decision is expected soon with New York and Atlanta also in the running.
Pritzker pointed to wins in recent years by Democrats in races for governor or the legislature in states including Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. In Wisconsin on Tuesday, a Democratic-backed judge won a state Supreme Court race that drew national attention, ensuring liberals will have majority control of the court for the first time in 15 years.
“People who believe in investing in workers, investing in families, investing in young people have come to leadership positions,” in those states, he said.
Johnson defeated Paul Vallas, who insisted he was a “lifelong Democrat” but faced repeated attacks during the campaign alleging he was Republican in disguise. Vallas was endorsed by the Chicago Police Department’s largest union and took in millions of dollars from GOP donors and business owners.
Pritzker never made an endorsement in the mayor’s race. But in a statement last month, one of his campaign spokespeople appeared to take a jab at Vallas for comments he made on a conservative radio show that were harshly critical of the governor’s COVID-19 mitigation mandates. The governor’s campaign said the city’s residents deserved to know whether the next mayor would listen to medical experts or “right-wing talk show hosts” when making life-or-death decisions.
Pritzker acknowledged that the victory for Johnson, arguably the most leftist Democratic politician in modern times who was elected to lead Chicago, represents something different for a city that has traditionally elected more centrist Democrats.
“Look, he’s younger than most of the mayors that have gotten elected. He’s somebody who comes out of an activist background. I think there’s a lot to admire about, and he’s a teacher, and I believe that he will bring a certain vibrancy to the city,” said Pritzker.
Pritzker said he spoke with Johnson on Tuesday night and indicated they’d likely meet within the next few weeks to discuss his transition.
“I want to make sure that all of the very important things that Chicago needs to work on, whether it’s balancing its budget, paying its pensions, all the stuff that sounds boring to everybody and doesn’t get brought up sometimes in the midst of an election campaign, but are very important for the future of the city, that those are just baseline things,”Pritzker said. “And I want the state to be helpful in that endeavor as we are trying to be for municipalities across the state.”