By AARON GETTINGER
Illinois Democratic Party Director Christian Mitchell, the 26th District’s state representative, says his party is going to do pursue the goals on which it campaigned when it takes control of the state government next year: to ensure Illinoisans everywhere have a decent job, decent schools and tax relief.
Asked about Republican and conservative concerns that Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker and State House Speaker Mike Madigan are going to run “roughshod” over the General Assembly, Mitchell offered a blunt assessment of the minority party.
“Illinois Republicans are going to want to start by doing a little bit of soul-searching about how they can be more effective in electoral campaigns as well as making sure that they’re dealing with the demons in their own party that has turned towards white nationalism and xenophobia,” he said, adding that he hopes the GOP can recover from these issues.
Mitchell said that his party’s supporters knew what they were voting for: “Gov.-elect Pritzker laid out pretty clear plans on the campaign trail.” Nevertheless, “It’s pretty hard to run roughshod when you have to work through the legislative process.”
Although Pritzker’s campaign called for a constitutional amendment allowing a graduated income tax, Mitchell said the plan’s specifics, such as what the tax rates for income levels will be, still need to be hashed out between the governor-elect and both parties in the legislature. Speaking for himself, Mitchell said he has not seen a structure wherein over 85 percent of Illinoisans did not get a tax cut that he would support.
On job creation and education policy, Mitchell said Democrats are primarily focused on investing in infrastructure and the state’s higher education system, which weathered devastating budget cuts under Gov. Bruce Rauner. Mitchell suggested they would raise funding of the Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants for income-eligible students who are Illinois residents.
Efforts to ensure college affordability also would help stem the tide of students leaving to study in other Big 10 college towns, as would local infrastructural improvements and investments in job training programs and community colleges. Investments in colleges, hospitals and federally qualified health centers, which Mitchell called “the lifeblood of a bunch of communities” outside of Chicagoland, would allow for them to become more vibrant local economic hubs.
In a nation wracked by racial discord and political violence in the last 50 years, Mitchell reflected on the past and present success of black politicians in Illinois. In January, half of its statewide elected officials — Atty. Gen.-elect Kwame Raoul, Lt. Gov.-elect Juliana Stratton and incumbent Sec. of State Jesse White — will be African-American.
“I think the first time someone does a thing, it makes it easier for everyone behind them. It’s the concept that you’ll often hear from older black folks who maybe migrated here from the South, that you lift as you climb,” Mitchell said, noting former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and President Barack Obama.
“I think people have voted for and been comfortable voting for African Americans in positions of power,” he said. “I think it’s because people have taken the shot, given folks a chance and have seen that, just like anybody else, African Americans in leadership care about their kids and yours have a shot at a better future, that they have a better life than you’ve had and that they’re entirely capable of leadership. And having demonstrated that and having seen its effects, I think the people are more comfortable voting for something they know.”