SPRINGFIELD — State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez was unanimously elected to lead the state Democratic Party on Saturday, a day after US Rep. Robin Kelly dropped her bid for a full four-year term.
The vote was quick by the Illinois Democratic State Central Committee at Plumbers Union Hall in Springfield, but followed weeks of intense lobbying by the 34-member panel by Democratic Governor JB Pritzker, who supported Hernandez, and Kelly’s aides.
With the election of Hernandez as the party’s first Latina chair, the first time the governor had gained control of the state party apparatus when Kelly was chosen as his preferred candidate a year earlier.
In a statement of support for Cicero’s 15-year-old lawmaker, Pritzker said, “Hernandez is an honest woman who cares deeply about fighting for working families, promoting diversity and inclusion, and helping all Illinoisans prosper. does.”
The governor said, “I know she will maintain the unity of our party, and I trust her ability to work with the state’s Central Committee to elect Democrats at every level of government — both in this midterm election and its aftermath.” Even after.”
Hernandez and his supporters sought to echo the theme of unity, despite a heated election campaign highlighting racial divisions in the party ahead of a crucial November election.
Democrats control all statewide offices and the state Supreme Court, hold supremacy in the state House and Senate, and hold the majority of the state’s US House seats and both its US Senate seats.
Infiltration into the leadership position as Illinois Democrats seek a higher national profile, pushing Chicago as a host city for the 2024 Democratic national presidential nomination convention and placing Illinois as the first five in the party’s 2024 primary calendar Tried to create one of the states.
While the challenge for Kelly was driven by his limited fundraising ability as a federal officeholder, race and ethnicity quickly came to play a part in the campaign.
Kelly, Mattson’s five-term Congresswoman, was banned from raising funds for state candidates—the bulk of the party’s activity—because as a member of Congress she is subject to federal campaign finance laws. which are more restrictive than state law. Money can be contributed and which organizations are allowed to donate.
Hernandez’s election was assured Friday when four Latino committee members led by U.S. Representative Jesus “Chuy” García announced their support for Kelly, who was elected in March last year and became the state party’s first president. Black chair.
Kelly withdrew from the race on Friday because of the vote-rich Latino bloc’s decision. In his election a year earlier to fill the unexpected term of longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, who resigned amid the scandal, Kelly was endorsed by Garcia and Elgin’s State Sen. Christina Castro over Pritzker’s failed choice, Chicago Eld. Had given. Michelle Harris, 8th.
Castro said one of the factors he considered in Saturday’s election was the growth of the Latino community in Illinois, which has led Democrats to create a second congressional seat with a larger Latino population.
“In the end, we chose the best candidate, who we thought would lead us as a state and clearly brought everyone together and united everyone, as well as put in the resources that would help Democrats get on the ticket. Up and down are necessary to be selected,” Castro said.
Pritzker’s decision to back Hernandez revealed some hostility from Black Democratic lawmakers to the governor’s demand.
“You know, it’s all about working together, but walking into it was unfortunately not about working together. But now that we’re here, we have to figure out how to move forward, State Representative Will Davis of Homewood, committee member and Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.
Davis said there are concerns that the Pritzker may not have moved forward on some budgetary spending items that were pushed by the legislative Black Caucus, adding that “no matter what happened here, I hope the governor will still be able to make sure.” Committed to ensuring that black communities are taken care of.”
Retired Olympia Fields state representative Al Riley, who supported Kelly a year ago but was not on the committee this year, cited Kelly’s work to diversify the party leadership after decades of Madigan’s one-man rule. issued a tweet.
“The more some people want change, the more they really want things to stay the same. Nevertheless, character still matters. Thanks, Robin,” Riley wrote.
The party leadership battle was not entirely broken on racial grounds, with Hernandez receiving support from the state’s first Black House speaker, Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside. Hernandez is a member of Welch’s leadership team.
Former Chicago State Sen. John Colerton, a committee member who a year earlier expressed concerns about Kelly’s fundraising limits, sought to reduce racial infighting within the party.
“I think it was very cohesive today and I also have to tell you that these reports about racism are almost comical,” said Colerton, who supported Hernandez. “It was not about race. It was not about personality. It has come under this law which says you cannot raise any (state) money.”
Hernandez and Kelly declined to answer questions from reporters, but each gave statements to the state’s central committee.
Hernandez said he planned to meet with committee members and other party leaders “to make sure that your vision for our party is included in the mechanism we use to hold Republicans accountable and win in November.” will build.”
“I pledge to continue to listen to Democrats across the state and focus on building a party as diverse as Illinois,” she said.
Kelly won national acclaim from members of the Democratic National Committee for modernizing the organization of Illinois and involving it in national affairs decades later when Madigan used the state party for her fundraising activities for the House Democrats, Who will support him as speaker.
He was cleared of an open seat to continue serving in the DNC.
“This past week has been a challenging one. To be honest, the last 16 months have been challenging in many ways. I know my vision for a new kind of DPI was shared by many and I am obviously disappointed that I could not continue to build this party,” said Kelly, who heads the state. retains its position in the Central Committee. “But now is the time to look ahead.”