Democratic candidate for Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker apologized for his controversial comments on race Tuesday as fallout continues after recordings of a conversation with disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich were leaked.
The Chicago Tribune released the tapes, recorded by the FBI in a wiretap, Monday. In them, Pritzker made what some consider offensive comments about African-American options to replace newly-elected President Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.
Headlines of the conversation include Pritzker calling Secretary of State Jesse White the "least offensive" pick, calling former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones "crass," saying that choosing then-U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson Jr. "would be a nightmare," and mocking Obama's controversial former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
In the wake of the release, a campaign field organizer resigned Tuesday, with Pritzker's campaign saying they "respect her feelings on this matter and are sad to see her go from the campaign."
Plans for a rally on Chicago's South Side were also canceled, and Pritzker offered an apology with White, who endorsed him in August, and other African-American supporters at his side.
"I was trying to convince him that Secretary of State White would be a great public servant," Pritzker said at a news conference.
But Pritzker's opponents were quick to react.
"I don't think that it's the sort of character that our Democratic party should have as its standard bearer, I think it's offensive," said Chris Kennedy, competing for the Democratic nomination to take on incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner.
"The notion that the white male governor and the white male billionaire are going to kind of, in a jokey conversation, divvy up the spoils for other communities, is dangerous," state Sen. Daniel Biss said.
African-American support is key to the Democratic party, accounting for nearly 30 percent of the vote in the 2016 presidential primary election.