Illinois’ new governor has his work cut out for him


Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.Bn Pritzker in Chicago on Oct. 1. Columnist Kyra writes that Gov. Pritzker must work to unite a deeply divided Illinois and refrain from alienating Democrats or Republicans.

By Kyra Sadovi, Columnist

After J.B. Pritzker was inaugurated as Illinois’ 43rd governor this past Monday, he gave an inaugural speech which made him sound like the leader of a very jaded people which, perhaps, he is.

About halfway through, he insisted, “No, everything is not broken.” And later, “I am not naive” to believe in an optimistic future for Illinois.

Pritzker should know he has a hard four years ahead of him. Despite supermajorities of Democrats in the Illinois House and enough votes to override vetoes in the Illinois Senate, Illinoisans are very divided. Pritzker needs to understand his tenure as governor will be a watershed moment for the future of Illinois, and it’s up to him to decide what that future will look like. He could bridge the deepening divide between northern, central and southern Illinois and stanch the hemorrhage of people from the state by creating a more hospitable economy — which he seems inclined to do, given his promise of a graduated income tax — or he could follow the beaten trail of Illinois Democrats and consider these supermajorities as a signal from his constituents he has our unwavering support to do whatever he’d like.

We saw the division in Illinois politics in the gubernatorial primary cycle  there were multiple challenges to Pritzker’s campaign from both the Democratic establishment and strong challenges from the left. The fact the Daniel Biss campaign gained so much traction is a testament to the disillusionment of people all over the state with the Illinois Democratic machine. But even more telling was primary candidate Ameya Pawar’s choice of lieutenant governor — Tyrone Coleman, the mayor of Cairo, Illinois. Pawar, a Chicago Alderman, understood southern and central Illinois is hurting and needs to be heard.

Our new governor is going to need to use his political advantage well. Instead of listening only to his supporters, he needs to pay attention to the needs of Republicans and disillusioned citizens all over the state. He needs to use the majorities in the House and Senate to push pension reform instead of just following the Madigan bandwagon. He should push for a strong new look at an overhaul of the entire pension system, even look to a constitutional amendment to fix the system. He needs to figure out how to usher new business into areas of Illinois that have seen plants pull out, leaving entire towns jobless without pushing out original residents. He also needs to make sure he has a good relationship with the new mayor of Chicago after this spring’s election. It sounds like a facile thing, but it is much harder said than done. Without a working relationship between Chicago and Springfield, the most disadvantaged Chicagoans will pay the price.

Pritzker is right to think he has to convince his constituents not to lose all hope. We live in daunting times  the federal government has been shut down for the longest period in history, our state sees extreme disparities in wealth and opportunity, and partisanism is higher than “at any point in the last two decades,” according to the Pew Research Center.

Now it’s time to show us why we should trust Pritzker, how he plans to lead us to become once again “a place whose people have high hope and clear vision,” as he noted in his speech. It’s time to unite Illinois after two extremely divisive national elections and years of corruption and embarrassments from the Illinois governor’s mansion. Show us that we were right to elect you, Gov. Pritzker, or else get out of the way.

Kyra is a sophomore in LAS.
[email protected]