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On Background: WBEZ's Politics Podcast

March 23, 2018: Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

The votes have been cast, and the results are in. The March 20, 2018 primaries weren’t even cold in the grave when candidates started scheming for November’s general elections. Here’s what the WBEZ politics team breaks down this week:

  • Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner eked out a win against his primary opponent, state Rep. Jeanne Ives, but he did poorly in Chicago’s suburbs and he leads a fractured Republican party.
  • Democrat J.B. Pritzker won his party’s nomination for governor handily. Strong turnout from Democratic voters offers Pritzker signs of encouragement.
  • A few members of the so-called ‘Democratic machine’ could be on their way out of politics. Losses by two incumbents, Cook County assessor Joseph Berrios and state Rep. Dan Burke, could have broader implications.
  • Get excited for February! Former Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy announced he is challenging Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The 2019 Chicago mayoral race has begun.

You can get this podcast delivered to you every week by subscribing here. Below are highlights.

Gov. Rauner won the Republican primary, barely

Dave McKinney: The worrisome thing for Rauner is he’s coming out of the primary with absolutely no momentum. He has a severely fractured party, and his primary challenger, Jeanne Ives, is offering no real help to reunite it. She says she’ll vote for him, but she won’t endorse him or campaign with him. And they haven’t even talked since the election. She got around 342,000 votes, and many of those supporters are not with Rauner. They’re still very angry that he supported an expansion of public funding for abortions.

Becky Vevea: My sense is she really swept the suburbs, too. So how will Rauner go about winning over suburban voters?

McKinney: You’re right. He got his clock cleaned in the suburbs and that’s problematic because, for Republicans to win statewide in Illinois, they have to win not only downstate but they have to win the suburbs. And she won every county in the collars except for Lake County.

The other part of this is that this 2.8 percentage point victory of his is a historically low figure for Illinois governors. It’s pretty bleak, especially when you consider that Democrats came to the polls in numbers double the Republicans. Democrats are highly motivated this year.

J.B. Pritzker’s easy primary win could bode well in November

Tony Arnold: The African-American community really came out strong for J.B. Pritzker. He was winning in some wards on the South and West sides of Chicago with two-thirds of the vote over Chris Kennedy and Daniel Biss. That’s a huge number for Pritzker, and he’s got to be encouraged by that.

Vevea: What about people who maybe don’t turn out during primaries but vote in general elections. Does he have an uphill climb there?

Arnold: Perhaps, but he already has a response I think that’s geared a little bit toward those moderate voters who could be taking a new look at Rauner. It’s simply that Rauner failed. It’s a new campaign slogan that he’s released this week. And it really sets up just how ugly this race is going to be.

Some members of Chicago’s so-called ‘Democratic machine’ got spanked

Vevea: State Rep. Dan Burke, the brother of powerful alderman Ed Burke, lost his state senate seat to someone who wasn’t even alive when he first took office. That’s 26-year-old high school counselor Aaron Ortiz.

And also, the current chairman of the Cook County Democratic party, Joseph Berrios, lost his seat as Cook County assessor to Oak Park businessman Fritz Kaegi.

Claudia Morell: I wouldn’t write an obituary for the machine yet, but Berrios is definitely vulnerable. And in fact, just this afternoon, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced she wants Berrios’ job as head of the county party. And all of the Democratic committeemen will be meeting next month to determine whether or not to keep Berrios or to replace him with someone else. And if this past election has showed us anything, it’s that there are growing divisions within the Democratic Party.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel already has a challenger in February’s mayoral election

Morell: Garry McCarthy is the former Chicago police superintendent that Mayor Emanuel fired in December 2015 after the court required the city to release the Laquan McDonald video. At that time Mayor Emanuel said that McCarthy was a “distraction.” Mayor Emanuel already put out an attack ad against McCarthy that features Donald Trump when he spoke at City Club before he won the presidential election.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation.

Editor’s note: Chicago Public Media receives philanthropic support from The Pritzker Foundation. J.B. Pritzker, who is campaigning for governor in the Democratic Primary, is not involved with the foundation and does not contribute to it.

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