Democratic candidate for Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker named state Rep. Juliana Stratton to be his 2018 running mate Thursday, calling the Chicago attorney a fighter who "hasn't been shy about standing up" to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and President Donald Trump.
"Juliana doesn't back down from a tough fight. That's why I need her at my side in this election," said Pritzker, one of more than a half dozen Democrats looking to unseat Rauner.
Stratton is expected to help Pritzker in a crowded Democratic primary with two key voting blocs: women and black voters. She is the first woman on any Democratic gubernatorial ticket, and an African-American who was born and raised on Chicago's South Side and sends her daughters to the same public school she attended.
Stratton's daughters helped Pritzker introduce her to a cheering crowd, where Stratton talked up her work on criminal justice reform and her support for women's access to abortion and for a black community that has been "ignored and suffered decades of disinvestment." She also criticized Rauner for a years-long state budget impasse that led to big cuts to social services and other programs.
"I haven't been in Springfield very long, but I've been there long enough to know that Bruce Rauner is not providing the leadership we need," Stratton said. "When all of that is happening in the state that you're supposed to lead, you don't need to be looking for someone else to blame. You need to look in the mirror."
The Illinois Republican Party criticized the choice, saying Stratton "owes her political career" to longtime Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, Rauner's chief political rival. They called it the latest example of Pritzker "doing everything possible to cozy up to Madigan."
"J.B. Pritzker is making it clear that he will allow the governor's office to be annexed over to Speaker Madigan," GOP spokesman Steven Yaffe said.
Stratton won the 2016 Democratic primary against Rep. Ken Dunkin in a race that was seen as a proxy war between Rauner and Madigan. Durkin was targeted by unions and other Democrats after he aligned himself with Rauner on some key issues, including voting against pro-labor legislation.
The contest set a state record for spending in a statehouse primary, with allies of Rauner and Madigan pouring millions into ad buys and other expenses. President Barack Obama endorsed Stratton, taking the unusual step of recording radio and television spots for a candidate in a statehouse primary.
Among the other Democrats seeking the party's nomination are state Sen. Daniel Biss, businessman Chris Kennedy and Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar. None of them has picked a lieutenant governor candidate yet.
Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor must run on the same ticket in Illinois under a state law that took effect in the 2014 election.