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J.B. Pritzker on Bruce, Blago, and Being a Billionaire

The Democratic candidate for governor discusses the Illinois GOP, campaigning for Hillary, and more.

Photo: Lisa Predko

As the front-runner, do you wake up dreading the possibility of a story like the Blagojevich wiretap that captured you asking to be state treasurer?

Let’s remember that Bruce Rauner has every interest in getting stories out there that hurt Democrats. You see the Illinois GOP, which he has funded, promoting these kinds of stories every day.

Are you saying the Illinois GOP does opposition research for the Tribune and the Sun-Times?

These are political attacks, and they’re trying to distract from the failures of this governor.

Why do you want to be governor?

I think about how everything that I care about seems to be under siege by Bruce Rauner and Donald Trump. And so I feel an obligation to fight to repair it.

So Trump is one reason you’re running?

My wife and I were both very engaged in trying to defeat Trump. We knocked on doors in three states.

People predicted that if Hillary won, you’d be in her cabinet. Which job did you want?

I didn’t have a plan.

No discussion like, “Do you want to be ambassador to France?”

No, no, no, we were fighting just to win. What I wanted most was for us to elect the first woman president.

The word “billionaire” is superglued to your name. Do you see a trace of anti-Semitism in that?

I don’t think that that word adequately describes who I am. I’m someone who has been deeply involved in early childhood [education], who has created jobs, not only in my own businesses but also at 1871 [the tech incubator].

When you’re on your campaign bus traveling downstate, do you sleep on the bus or do you find—

A motel.

Not a Grand Hyatt? [Pritzker’s family founded the Hyatt hotel chain.]

Have you been to central and southern Illinois?

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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