Pritzker’s school board ploy demeans election process

Gov. JB Pritzker speaks during a news conference Tuesday, April, 4, 2023, in the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Pritzker along with a group of llinois lawmakers, DeKalb city officials and representatives from NIU were on hand to promote the importance of funding higher education in Illinois.

Gov. JB Pritzker, beneficiary of a multibillion-dollar family fortune, recently tapped his spare change jar for $500,000 to spend on local races.

His stated goal was for the Democratic Party to target “really extreme candidates” the governor considers unfit to hold elected positions on school and library boards.

Local residents found out what Pritzker means by targeting “really extreme candidates.” Apparently, it’s anyone who might disagree with him and like-minded party workers on the purely local issues these boards address.

How so?

Pritzker money is driving rotten and mistaken attacks on three candidates for the Champaign School Board – Mark Holm, Jeff Brownfield and Mark Thies.

The governor’s minions characterize them vaguely as promoters of an “extremist political agenda.”

The truth is that there is nothing about these three candidates – or any of the others in the race – that is particularly unusual, let alone extreme, save their willingness to seek a thankless job because they think it’s the right thing to do.

The governor’s rhetoric is nothing but political boilerplate that applies the same labels to all those Pritzker is vilifying.

Hence, Champaign citizens are being warned that “extremist conservatives are running for local school and library boards” with the goal of “banning books, blocking full-spectrum sex education, teaching revisionist history and ignoring public health.”

For starters, no one was running for the library board in Champaign. Its members are appointed by the mayor with the approval of the city council. So citizens need not worry about Pritzker’s falsehood with respect to the library.

At the same time, the issues under discussion in the school board election include improving students’ academic performance and creating safe environments both for students and teacher – the usual stuff. There’s been nary of a word about “banning books,” although most people can agree that books in school should be age-appropriate for K-12 students.

The vehemence and vagueness of the Pritzker attacks are more suited to traditional political campaigns for important political offices. That sort of approach is sometimes distasteful and sometimes unfair even at that level.

To stoop so low as to introduce this kind of partisan nastiness in a school board election is beyond the pale.

Pritzker is known for having sharp political elbows and the willingness to use his unlimited personal wealth to finance unsavory tactics in his win-at-any-cost approach. For example, he gave many millions of dollars to the Democratic Governors Association to help the weakest Republican candidate for governor – state Sen. Darren Bailey – win the GOP nomination for governor.

Pritzker concluded that Bailey would be the easiest Republican to beat in the 2022 general election, and he was right.

He’s equally aggressive when it comes to launching political attacks on foes.

That’s tolerable when he’s attacking rival politicians or even skeptical financial analysts who challenge the governor’s claims about the state of the state’s finances.

But these kind of vague and false personal attacks on school board candidates reveal the governor’s tactics for what they are – mendacious falsehoods employed to achieve an unworthy political goal.

His henchmen claim they engaged in serious research allowing them to “distribute crucial election information” statewide.

If their Champaign research is an example of their broader approach, nothing they say is remotely credible. It’s just the usual political name-calling.

Voters should vote for the board candidates of their choice based on their own instincts, not the governor’s vacuous smear tactics.

Champaign News-Gazette