A wild week: Illinois governor's race - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

A wild week: Illinois governor's race

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WSIL -- It was another wild week in the Illinois governor's race, with both front-runners facing big political problems as they near the primaries. 

After a rough couple of weeks, J.B. Pritzker hopes to get back on track. 

His campaign released a new ad called "My Choice," featuring U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.

"Those of us from downstate know that we have special challenges...J.B. Pritzker knows that and he's focused on that," Durbin says in the ad.

"Senator Durbin is fighting for our families every day in Washington and it's time he had a partner in the governor's office," said J.B. Pritzker. "I know that we can unite Illinois and bring people together to put Springfield back on the side of working families. I'm so proud to have him standing with me in this campaign as we work to tackle the challenges that communities across our state face and build a better future for Illinois."

Pritzker's problems picked up when the Rauner campaign released an infamous FBI wiretap of a conversation between Pritzker and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Political analyst John Jackson, with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said it pushed Pritzker's poll numbers down, while pushing fellow Democrat Daniel Biss' numbers up, tightening the race. 

Jackson says that was Rauner's intent.

"He doesn't want to run against Pritzker is the clear message," said Jackson.  "He'll take anybody else over Pritzker."

Pritzker's problems persisted this week, when another secret conversation popped up, in which the billionaire used racially insensitive language to describe black politicians.

Pritzker apologized, telling voters at a community event on Chicago's West Side that the comments don't represent who he is.

"It doesn't represent what's in my heart, but that doesn't change the fact that nine years ago it happened and for that I am truly and deeply sorry," Pritzker said. 

Jackson said the comments hurt Pritzker in the primary, and could depress turnout among African-Americans in the general election. 

"He can rehabilitate himself to some extent but he's also been hurt in that community to some extent," said Jackson.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, another ad caused controversy.

A Jeanne Ives ad, which critics call racist, sexist and transphobic, no doubt hurt Rauner, Jackson said.

"I think she has hurt his prospects all the way through November, just like to some extent Rauner has hurt Pritzker all the way through November," said Jackson.

Ives stands by the ad, saying it shows the constituency Rauner has chosen to serve. 

Rauner, who released his own ad attacking Ives' record, maintains he's the only Republican who can defeat Pritzker. 

"I am the one candidate in this election who can beat Pritzker and Madigan. No one else can," he said. "I can and I will."

Despite the problems plaguing Pritzker and Rauner, Jackson says they both remain the favorites to win their parties' nominations, with just five and a half weeks to go before the March 20 primaries. 

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