Democratic Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday — the day after his comfortable win over GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner — that he is laying groundwork for bipartisan action when he takes office.
Pritzker told The State Journal-Register that on Election Night, he spoke with Senate GOP Leader Bill Brady of Bloomington and House GOP Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs "to say that I look forward to working with them to solve the big problems, the big challenges we've got in the state, and I hope they'd be open-minded in working with me, and they both agreed that they would be."
Pritzker also named Republican former Gov. Jim Edgar as one of the co-chairs of his transition team.
"Although I have some disagreements with him, I think he's somebody who's highly capable and had a lot to offer to a new governor," Pritzker said.
He said he also spoke to leaders of the majority Democrats in both chambers -- Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan, both of Chicago -- "and said the same thing to them, that we've got to work across the aisle. We've got to try to end the partisan rancor in Springfield and try to get things done."
In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Cullerton congratulated Pritzker and said he knows "the entire Senate looks forward to working with him to restore stability to our great state."
In Tuesday's election, Pritzker got 54 percent of the vote, to 39.3 percent for Rauner. State Sen. Sam McCann, who ran under the Conservative Party banner, got 4.3 percent, and Libertarian Grayson "Kash" Jackson polled at 2.4 percent, less than the 5 percent needed for either to establish party status that would have made it easier for their candidates to get on the ballot in future elections.
Pritzker noted that while he won 15 of the state's 102 counties, they included some milestones for Democrats. He said he was the first Democratic candidate for governor to have won DuPage County since 1932, Champaign County since 1936 or Kane County since 1932.
"We did very well across the state, and I think that's because we didn't leave out any part of the state, and I listened to and addressed the challenges that working families have no matter where they live," Pritzker said.
Pritzker on Wednesday announced that his campaign manager, Anne Caprara, will serve as his chief of staff in the governor's office. He also said he worked with Caprara on the acceptance speech he delivered Tuesday night.
In that speech, Pritzker said in part: "Who we are is how we overcome our biggest challenges. We work to mend broken places, we light the journey from hill to hilltop and recognize that there is grace and courage and pride in the struggle to rise. And, ladies and gentlemen, rise we will. We make no small plans for Illinois."
"My tone was to remind people that we have challenges in the state, but that we know we can overcome those challenges ... so that people understand that we have a brighter future ahead, even when we know there are lots of hurdles," Pritzker said Wednesday.
One hurdle is the contract between the state and its largest employee union. The contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees expired in mid-2015. Asked about the status of the pact, Pritzker said Rauner "hasn't handled that well." He said if it is still unresolved when he takes office, he would "work as expeditiously as possible to get a negotiation with them and reach agreement."
He also praised Lt. Gov.-elect Juliana Stratton as the "greatest partner" in the job that "anyone can imagine."
"She's extraordinary," he said. He named Stratton to chair his transition, and said she would have "major responsibilities" in his administration.
Pritzker and his wife, M.K., live in Chicago and have a 16-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son.
"I intend to live at the Governor's Mansion in Springfield, but I will of course be commuting as often as possible." He said the children would continue schooling in Chicago, but "there will be a lot of travel back and forth by all of us."
"I am looking forward to spending time in Springfield, as I have during the course of the campaign," Pritzker said. "I think it allows me not just to get to know people in Sangamon County better, but also to get around Central and Southern Illinois easier. That's something that's been really important to me during the course of the campaign -- just listening to people who live in different areas of the state than where I live."
He also said he would work with Republicans as well as Democrats to try to pass a capital bill -- to fund infrastructure work -- for the first time in a decade.