As rapper Ice Cube might say, the November 6 midterm elections turned out to be “a good day” for Democrats, nationally, and for the Illinois Democratic Party in particular, including black candidates in the Land of Lincoln.
Democrats seized control of the U.S. House, gaining between 35-40 seats, racked up historic firsts in terms of unprecedented numbers of women of color and LGBTQ candidates who ran for office and, in the process, gained the power to neutralize the Trump administration’s agenda of dismantling Obamacare, hostility toward immigrants, and lack of transparency relative to his possible collusion with Russia.
In Illinois, J.B. Pritzker led a Democratic black and blue tidal wave of sorts, becoming the governor-elect by soundly defeating Governor Bruce Rauner by nearly 15 percentage points.
And on Pritzker’s coattails rode a record number of African-American statewide winners including Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton, Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Secretary of State Jesse White.
With Pritzker’s ascent to the governor’s office on January 14 comes an end to the contentious and, oftentimes, adversarial relationship between state House Speaker Mike Madigan and the governor’s office which resulted in zero progress for the state under Rauner’s lackluster tenure.
Pritzker has, at least, a congenial relationship with Madigan and plans to hit the ground running, with his top priority being a balanced budget.
Following his election, Pritzker stated, “We want to have a budget that helps us create jobs and attract companies to the state and bring back stability to our state, which will be the progenitor of jobs and encouraging people to come…when we create jobs we bring revenue to the state without raising taxes.”
So, how does he plan to do it?
Pritzker has made it no secret that he wants to legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational use, which would bring in an estimated $300-750 million in added revenue to the state.
In addition, Pritzker wants to have more inclusion of black and brown entrepreneurs in the planning and licensing of dispensaries to sell the legalized weed.
On the employment front, Pritzker wants to boost the minimum wage to $15 per hour, while creating tax incentives to attract and retain large corporations.
He would also like to explore the possibility of legalizing sports betting and expanding casino gambling throughout the state.
It’s an ambitious agenda, to say the least. But it’s feasible when a sitting governor is working in concert with the speaker and legislature versus being engaged in the futile power struggle that Rauner waged (and lost) during his failed leadership of the state.
And with Illinois teetering on the verge of insolvency, in part, due to a legacy of corruption, out-of-control property taxes, political in-fighting and a four-year tug-o-war between Rauner and Madigan, change is good. Let’s just hope that it’s the kind of positive and lasting change that Illinois has been hoping and praying for.