CHICAGO, Illinois -- One day after J.B. Pritzker was voted in as governor of Illinois, News 8's Ryan Jenkins sat down with him for a one-on-one interview.
The following is that interview transcribed:
It all happened so fast last night, the polls were just starting to close down and then Governor Rauner calls and concedes. Were you at all surprised by that?
"You know, I was a little surprised at how fast it went but I know that we ran a campaign all across the state of Illinois and felt good about the prospects of winning last night. You know, we won counties that haven't been won by democrats for quite a long time... we're really thrilled about the success that we had.
"And democrats did well up and down the ticket and that was much of what we were trying to do during this campaign not just to win as governor but all of our state races, and we succeeded in all that."
A big talking point with this campaign was how much money was spent, over $170 million with your campaign. Do you think you could have won with $60, $70 or $80 million, some people are saying that if you didn't spend so much money maybe you wouldn't have won. What's your response to that?
Remember what we were trying to do is we were trying to build an infrastructure for the Democratic party that hasn't been there for a very long time, to make sure we could get our voters out all across the state. So, you know, we had 30 offices across Illinois and I spent time all across this state working on building that infrastructure, making sure that we're lifting up every candidate running in every one of the 102 counties and that's why we put resources forward. But look, Illinois is worth it. We put the dollars forward because Governor Bruce Rauner is trying to intimidate voters trying to intimate candidates into getting out of the race.
How will your administration work to fight for passenger rail in the Quad Cities?
"I think that building infrastructure for our state is one of the big priorities for the next administration, something that I'm going to try to get done very early. We need an infrastructure bill for our state. We've gotta invest in not only passenger rail but remember, we are the supply chain hub of the nation here in the state of Illinois. And I want to make sure that we create jobs and keep the jobs that we've got, so that means investing in our roads, bridges and waterways.
"And another part of infrastructure that people don't often talk about, we need broadband internet everywhere in our state. We need to make sure everybody has access because that's another way that we're gonna be able to create jobs."
How does that help us compete with the Iowa side of the Quad Cities?
"The fact that we've got such great infrastructure and that we're investing in it that will be a good competitive selling point for Illinois, but there's another thing we need to do, which is we've got to lower property taxes across our state... That's one of the reasons people sometimes move across the border who live in counties in Illinois that are next to other states.
"If we can be competitive from a property tax perspective, we've got the best state in the Midwest, in fact in the nation, and so people will want to stay here - particularly the middle class. We want to keep people in the state and make it more attractive for them."
I spoke with some undecided voters the day before Election Day and they said that they were undecided with you because you really haven't given them any specifics abut your plan to propose that graduated income tax. When can people in Illinois expect to hear some more specifics and would you like to share any specifics today?
"I think you'll be hearing about that as we negotiate with the legislature. It's very important for us to get a constitutional amendment passed in order to get a fair tax system in our state. That's how it's done. And in order to get that done we've got to listen to Republicans and Democrats and make sure that we've got an amendment that's acceptable to 60% or more of the legislature - both the House and the Senate - and then it goes to the people of Illinois and we need a 60% vote there. So that's how we're gonna get graduated income tax system passed, and that means we're going to have the input of everybody. "
Another fear from voters that I talked to said that you know you're hear on the campaign stops in the Quad Cities, but then once you're elected you wont come back. When can we expect to see you back in the Quad Cities and for what reasons?
"I plan to come to the quad cities frequently as governor. It's been important to me, not just as a candidate for office, but because we've got working families all across the Quad Cities area, and frankly central and southern Illinois too that need attention. Unlike other governors, I'm not gonna pit one area against another. I think every area of the state is extraordinary important, and that means having a governor who's actually spending time listening to people in every area of the state."
The veterans home in Quincy had that Legionnaires outbreak, people are wondering how your administration will now respond, not only to that instance but to make sure it doesn't happen again in the future.
"We need a responsible leadership of course, not just our Veterans Administration, but also the Department of Public Health. We've got to make sure we're standing up for veterans. You know, my father and grandfather were both Navy veterans. I've got a cousin who built a museum that's focused on the military and veterans, and I believe strongly we've got to step up to the plate and stand up for those people who defend our nation.
"So I'm going to make sure that we're doing the best that we can and that means making sure were rebuilding the Quincy veterans' home which has been so important for families until this recent outbreak, the last three years and the failures of the administration, I'm going to work hard to make sure that that never happens during my administration. But most importantly we're going to make sure that there's real transparency so people know when bad things are happening to their relatives at our veterans homes and I'm going to make sure that that doesn't happen."
Obviously you have your supporters in the Quad Cities, but there's people who did not vote for you, they think you're just another billionaire politician who's gonna come in and not really do much for them. What's your message to the people who are lacking trust in you?
"Well I'm gonna be a governor for everybody in the state- Republicans and Democrats- you know when you're governor of the state you represent everybody. But we've got to listen to everybody and make sure that we're taking into account their views. We've got to actually stand up for our middle class and those striving to get there. I want to put Springfield back on the side of working families, and if people didn't support me, I want them to see that we support them."