The leading Democrat running for governor of Illinois has apologized for his recently unearthed racist comments, but the lone Black person in the race said he didn’t take issue with them. Instead, Tio Hardiman said it was the African-Americans who still supported J.B. Pritzker who he had the real “problem” with.
“Black voters support him because the sellout Black preachers and leaders still support J.B.,” Hardiman told NewsOne in an interview Monday.
With less than five weeks before the primary, the Illinois gubernatorial race has been rocked by allegations of racism from both Democrats and Republicans alike in a state wth a rich history of political corruption. But even with the revealing comments from an FBI-wiretapped conversation in 2008, Black ministers and political figures rallied behind Pritzker at a press conference shortly after the tapes were released last week.
Hardiman said they, not Pritzker, owed him an apology.
“Pritzker didn’t do anything illegal,” he emphasized more than once. “All those Black preachers and leaders should apologize to me for not supporting the only Black man in the race,” he said.
Hardiman knows the reason for the Black leadership’s loyalty to the billionaire businessman.
“Everybody sees him as a money ticket with their hands out,” he said. “Those African-American preachers and Black officials are gatekeepers standing in the way of progress.”
They’ve been in position to improve the Black community for decades but have done little to solve problems like gun violence and high unemployment that plague Chicago, added the longtime activist and former director of CeaseFire Illinois.
In the secretly recorded phone conversation with ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Pritzker and the former governor discussed filling President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. Pritzker recommended selecting Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White because he “covers you on the African-American thing.” Pritzker added that White would be the “least offensive” among other Black candidates. Blagojevich, who’s now in prison, received a 14-year sentence in 2011 on 18 corruption convictions that included trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat.
Illinois Republicans are embroiled in their own racism controversy. GOP candidate Jeanne Ives published a political ad that includes a Black woman wearing a Chicago Teachers Union shirt who thanks the Republican governor for spending state funds to bail out Chicago public schools.
Despite the revelations about Pritzker’s true colors, recent polls found that 28.1 percent of African-American voters still support him, according to Chicago Sun-Times.
A poll taken at the end of January, before the scandal erupted, placed Hardiman in fourth place. But Hardiman, who also ran for governor in 2014, was optimistic about his chances of winning. There were still scores of undecided voters, including about 18.2 percent of American Americans who make up about 30 percent of Illinois’ Democrats, he said.
Hardiman’s internal polling says he has 18 percent of the statewide primary vote. Four years ago, he won 28.1 percent of the Democratic vote and 30 counties in the primaries.
“I’m the last great hope of the Black community,” he said, pointing to the exodus of African Americans from Chicago and the widespread feeling of hopelessness in the community. Solutions won’t come from Pritzker or the Black leaders. “They just do bidding,” the Black candidate stated.
After criticizing Black leaders for giving Pritzker a pass, Hardiman found some solace in the irony of the entire ordeal: “J.B. now knows what it’s like to be a Black man under the microscope.”