Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s push to unseat the state Democratic Party chair is growing messier by the day.
An Illinois abortion rights group joined the fray ahead of Saturday’s vote by opposing Rep. Robin Kelly, the first Black woman to chair the state party, in her bid for a full four-year term.
That in turn prompted a Cook County official to lob racial accusations before she withdrew as a co-sponsor for a fundraiser hosted by the group.
“As a Black woman, I am mindful of the dog whistles used to raise legal questions about the first African American and first woman to lead the Democratic Party of Illinois,” Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller said in a statement Wednesday. “The party has flourished under [Kelly’s] leadership.”
Miller’s remarks came after the Congressional Black Caucus PAC entered the debate in support of Kelly, while the Illinois AFL-CIO announced it is backing the Pritzker-supported Latina candidate, state Rep. Lisa Hernandez.
And in an awkward exchange Tuesday at a joint news conference with the Democratic National Committee, at which Pritzker and Kelly at times stood side by side, a reporter asked Pritzker how he could say Democrats were united if he was trying to “boot” Kelly from her post.
Then, later Wednesday, Rep. Bobby Rush, who also is Black, asserted his concerns with Kelly as chair.
“I have a great deal of love and respect for congresswoman Kelly, but this experiment of having a chair who can’t fundraise just didn’t work,” he said in a statement.
Kelly’s team, however, contends its fundraising has been on par with the previous chair.
The clashes are ill-timed, given that the Democratic National Committee is visiting Chicago to size it up as a potential 2024 convention site.
And the injection of racial politics further complicates matters for Pritzker, who not only is seeking re-election in the fall but is also increasingly testing the 2024 presidential waters.