Who's the boss? Pritzker beat Rauner but now faces the future with Madigan
His voice raspy from days of campaigning, Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker pumped hands, posed with CTA riders for selfies and outlined a whirlwind agenda.
"Here are the priorities," Pritzker said Wednesday, hours after ousting Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner from office. "We've got to put Springfield back on the side of working families. We've got to create jobs and raise wages. We've got to lower the cost of health care and expand it to everyone, and make sure ... when you go to college it's affordable."
Meeting those goals would be challenging enough for a seasoned politician. But Pritzker, a political newcomer, also faces an embittered Republican base and Democratic leaders with their own ideas on how to run the state.
"My intention is to be the governor of all the people of Illinois," said Pritzker, a Democrat and Hyatt hotel heir who pumped millions into his first political campaign.
"I will reach out to each and every Republican leader in the state -- we have to pull together to reach our goals."
One of Pritzker's signature campaign themes was shifting the state to a progressive income tax with different brackets based on earnings.
That's not a quick process, however. Since it's a constitutional amendment, the House and Senate would have to approve the proposal by a three-fifths majority; then it would go to the voters in the next general election -- November 2020.
Moving the needle on a progressive tax will be Pritzker's first test of wills with Democrat Speaker Michael Madigan and the Republican caucus.
"There can be no new taxes in this state," said Republican state Rep. Jeanne Ives, an influential conservative from Wheaton who nearly defeated Rauner in the primary.
"I think Mike Madigan will still run the state," predicted Ives, adding the speaker "is savvy and knows the state can't withstand another tax increase."
But outgoing Republican state Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights said "Madigan is successful as a politician, but Pritzker is successful in his own right as a businessman who works with people. I do not believe either man will allow himself to be pushed around."
Pritzker "will not be dependent on the legislative leaders for fundraising and can personally help individual House and Senate candidates," former state Sen. Bill Morris of Grayslake said. "He will be more independent than past governors."
Harris credited Pritzker for a unifying victory speech.
"His acceptance speech was full of hope, optimism and a sense that we can make things better in Illinois. That is exactly the tone that is needed right now," Harris said.
While Ives sees no daylight with Pritzker on fiscal policy, there's hope for common ground on targeted issues, such as enabling adults with development disabilities to live independently, she said.
"He's got the muscle to do that and it could be transformative," she said. "He's got two paths: He can either be the governor of the state of Illinois or the super mayor of Chicago."
Back at the CTA's Roosevelt Station, Pritzker got an earful from his new constituency.
As passers-by called out "J.B.! J.B.!" Chicagoan Perry Wilson told the governor-elect he hadn't worked in 19 years. Cardiologist Tom Lassar called out "way to go ... blue wave!"
And, "may the lord bless you," one man shouted.
"Thank you. ... Bless you, too," Pritzker said.