Mitchell to take position as deputy governor

Christian Mitchell in July 2018 (Herald file photo)

By AARON GETTINGER
Staff Writer

Three-term State Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-26) will resign from the Illinois House to become one of Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker’s deputy governors, an advisory position to help shepherd policy proposals through the legislature.

“The deputy governor is basically a high-level cabinet position that directly advises the governor on matters of policy and operations of the state government,” he said. “Basically, I’m focusing on infrastructure and strategic planning.”

Mitchell said the position is “a logical extension of the work I’ve done as a state representative for six years.”

He said he wants a budget with more education funding, stressing the importance of increased funding for the state’s beleaguered postsecondary system, increased access to childcare, an employment-raising capital bill and a raise in the minimum wage and teachers’ wages — all priorities that must pass through the General Assembly. He said his legislative experience puts him in a position to ensure “our legislative agenda is accomplished.”

“I think if you are really in this business to do the work of the people and there’s a chance to do it at a higher level and to help make sure that the laws you passed get executed, I think you take that opportunity,” he said.

Mitchell said a comparison of the deputy governor position to an office in a presidential administration “is not that neat.” He thinks all the just-hired deputy governors — himself, former Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes and former Chicago Board of Education head Jesse Ruiz — “will have some sort of oversight role in terms of government operations.”

He said Pritzker approached him for the job and that he expects to leave the House in early January. He imagines he will continue to split time between Springfield and Chicago. Asked about what the new position means for his political career, Mitchell said it is too early to speculate.

“I’ve always taken the ‘state’ of my state representative title seriously,” he said. “The chance to be part of a conversation that focuses on all of those things in a holistic way that puts together the framework necessary to make life for working people better everywhere, that’s a really exciting thing to be a part of.”

Though Mitchell, Pritzker, Hynes, Ruiz and Lt. Gov.-elect Juliana Stratton are all Chicago residents, Mitchell said there are many more new administration hires to come and promised an “incredible geographic balance.”

Mitchell moved to Hyde Park to attend the University of Chicago. He won a close primary victory for the 26th District seat in 2012, but was unopposed in the general election. Leading up to the 2012 general election, he worked on former President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign.
Mitchell was reelected to represent the 26th District, which includes Kenwood west of Woodlawn Avenue and Hyde Park west of Ellis Avenue and neighborhoods from Streeterville to South Chicago, in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

After living in Bronzeville, he moved back to Hyde Park in 2015. He is currently a student at the Loyola University School of Law and has been executive director of the Illinois Democratic Party since earlier this year.

Mitchell’s exit from the State House coincides with the impending departure of State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13th) to become Illinois Attorney General and the first term of State Rep.-elect Curtis Tarver (D-25th) who replaced retiring Rep. Barbara Flynn Curry. Hyde Park–Kenwood will have an entirely new set of General Assembly members representing it in 2019. State law entrusts the resigning incumbent’s local party officials — in this case, Democratic ward committeemen — to appoint Mitchell’s replacement.

Pritzker will be sworn in on Jan. 14.

a.gettinger@hpherald.com