Congresswoman Robin Kelly at center of behind-the-scenes Democratic Party power struggle

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Thursday, June 30, 2022
Congresswoman Kelly at center of Democratic Party power struggle
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Congresswoman Robin Kelly is at the center of a behind-the-scenes Democratic Party power struggle with Governor JB Pritzker.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is getting some big endorsements in her re-election bid.

Congressmen Bobby Rush, Danny Davis and Congresswoman Robin Kelly are all voicing their support for the first-term mayor. Lightfoot is one of at least eight candidates in the race.

SEE ALSO | Chicago mayor election: Lori Lightfoot officially begins reelection campaign

The endorsement of Robin Kelly is especially noteworthy as she's also the chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois, but there's an effort among some party elites to have her replaced.

Congresswoman Kelly is at the center of a behind-the-scenes party power struggle with Governor JB Pritzker.

"Well, you know, people have the right to endorse who they want to endorse and be with who they want to endorse," Kelly said.

Pritzker is not just focusing on his own reelection, but also on endorsing and providing financial support to candidates running for spots on the Democratic Central Committee, which will be voting on a new party chair later this summer.

Last year, Pritzker supported Chicago Alderwoman Michelle Harris, who lost to Kelly.

On Thursday, Pritzker dodged questions about whether he's planning to run another candidate against Kelly.

SEE ALSO | Illinois governor election results pit downstate Sen. Darren Bailey against Gov. JB Pritzker

"I haven't thought about that at all," Pritzker said. "I want us to make sure that the Democratic Party is organized in a way that we can raise money for state candidates and federal candidates. As you know, there are challenges with that having a federal office holder as the chair."

"There is no question, we took care of that when I first got elected, with lawyers," Kelly said in response. "So we are raising money and we have, you know, more money than a lot of states."

The political intrigue comes at a time when Kelly and Pritzker are working to help Chicago land the 2024 Democratic National Convention, and looking ahead to the November election.

Mayor Lightfoot, who was endorsed Thursday by Kelly, said she backs Kelly 100%.

"So we need to all get on board and make sure that we're supporting her because the work needs to be not about some intro-party intrigue, it's got to be to make sure that we're electing Democrats," Lightfoot said.

Pritzker and Kelly are both being careful with their words about one another.

"I support Congresswoman Robin Kelly, she's terrific in her role as congressperson," Pritzker said.

"I mean, we're not friends, but we're political associates," Kelly said of the governor.

The vote for the new party chair has to be held by early August, meaning this could be a summer of inter-party politics for Democrats, even as they try to keep their focus on beating Republicans in November.