As Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker pushes to unseat the first Black woman chair of the state Democratic Party, Rep. Robin Kelly, suspicions of racism boiled up following a statement by one of her supporters, according to NBC News. It’s not unusual to see racial tensions rise during a political race whether national or state level.
Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller withdrew as a co-sponsor for a fundraiser hosted by an abortions rights group that voted against Rep. Kelly. Before her exit she made a statement alluding to a potential racial motive in the race to replace Kelly.
“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. The party has flourished under [Kelly’s] leadership,” said Miller per NBC.
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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.
Pritzker insists his motives are driven by fundraising concerns. However, Kelly’s team assert her fundraising is up to par with the previous chair. According to WGLT, the Democratic Party raised over $2 million since Kelly became party chair between the Democratic Party of Illinois state fund and the Federal Election Commission fund.
Plus, she can only raise funds for candidates running for federal office as state candidate funds aren’t subject to her review, per NBC.
Kelly previously told NBC she was “disappointed” that the governor didn’t support her run for a full four-year term. “I can’t explain why he is doing this. You have to ask him,” she said. A Pritzker campaign aide asserted it was Rep. Lisa Hernandez in the race against Kelly and not the governor himself. However, his heavy hand in creating opposition to Kelly could make one think otherwise.