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Amid presidential chatter, Gov. Pritzker will address Wisconsin Democrats at annual convention

Gov. J.B. Pritzker at the podium before President Joe Biden delivers a speech at The Old Post Office on June 28, 2023 in Chicago.
Owen Ziliak/Sun-Times
Gov. J.B. Pritzker at the podium before President Joe Biden delivers a speech at The Old Post Office on June 28, 2023 in Chicago.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker plans to talk about the threat to “fundamental freedoms” that another Donald Trump presidency poses to the country in a speech before the Democratic Party of Wisconsin next month, as he further expands his political footprint outside of Illinois.

The party plans to host Pritzker as a keynote speaker for its annual state convention in Milwaukee on Saturday, June 8. Other Democratic speakers at the two-day convention include Wisconsin’s U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., and Gwen Moore, D-Wisc., and Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison.

“Wisconsin Democrats are experts at winning high-stakes elections and in 2024 everything is on the line,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Donald Trump presents an existential threat to fundamental freedoms — from abortion rights to voting rights — and Wisconsin Democrats are ready for the fight. I intend to stand shoulder to shoulder with Democrats from across Wisconsin at their convention in Milwaukee in June.”

Pritzker has made a concerted effort to keep the battleground state blue. In 2023, he contributed $1.1 million to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and $20,000 to support Janet Protasiewicz, who was elected a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice last year. He has also personally contributed to Evers’ gubernatorial campaign.

Pritzker’s earlier out-of-state campaigning included speaking before state Democratic party leaders inNew Hampshire and Florida in 2022, fueling speculation that he was plotting a presidential run in 2024. Since then he’s repeatedly tamped down questions about his presidential ambitions, while simultaneously showing his allegiance to President Joe Biden.

Pritzker, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and California Gov. Gavin Newsom are viewed as 2028 Democratic presidential contenders.

All three are helping to fight anti-abortion efforts across the country. Newsom’s super PAC Campaign for Democracy last month began airing TV ads in Alabama to highlight the dangers of abortion limits. Pritzker’s nonprofit Think Big America is helping to fund ballot initiatives in Florida, Nevada, Arizona and Montana. And Whitmer’s Fight Like Hell PAC helped fund Ohio’s ballot initiative last year, and is supporting Democratic Senate candidates.

Pritzker has close relationships with neighboring Midwestern Democrats Whitmer, Evers and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, and frequently chats with them about policy — hydrogen hubs and multi-state endeavors among the topics — as well as Blue Wall politics.

Pritzker is a surrogate to Biden’s campaign and played a key role in bringing the Democratic National Convention to Chicago in August. The governor’s former political director, Quentin Fulks, is also Biden’s deputy campaign manager.

Tina Sfondeles is the chief political reporter, covering all levels of government and politics with a special focus on the Illinois General Assembly, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration and statewide and federal elections.