JB Pritzker wins endorsements as infighting continues among candidates

A major endorsement in the Democratic race for governor Friday, but it comes as the infighting grows among the candidates.

One key issue emerging is the Cook County property tax assessments and the man running the assessor's office.

The Democratic establishment is now falling further in step behind JB Pritzker, but part of that establishment, Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios is again the target of criticism. This comes after published reports detailed widespread problems with the way the assessor's office operates, that has one candidate calling for Berrios to resign.

"I think Joe Berrios ought to step down, I don't think he ought to finish out his term," said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy.

Chris Kennedy launched the latest volley in the criticism of Assessor Joe Berrios one day after a Chicago Tribune/Pro Publica investigation detailed a vast disparity in the tax assessment system. A system, critics say, that has under-assessed many high-end commercial and residential properties, providing tax breaks to the rich at the expense of other property owners.

But on Friday, as Democratic gubernatorial candidate JB Pritzker picked up the endorsements of Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, he was not casting stones at Berrios, who is also the head of the Cook County Democratic Party, which has endorsed Pritzker.

"I think it's important for the voters off Cook County to make the decision about who they want in that position. I don't think it's my job foment a war between democrats," said Pritzker.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss also declined to call for Berrios to resign and instead criticized his rivals.

"We've got a system where wealthy connected people like JB Pritzker and Chris Kennedy are able to get property tax reductions by hiring politically connected attorneys. This is not the way we ought to have an assessment system, the whole thing needs to be reformed, that's why I've introduced legislation to do it," said Biss.

Kennedy appealed and won reductions on his Wolfe Point property assessment and Pritzker got reductions on a home he purchased next to his Gold Coast mansion after getting it declared uninhabitable after the toilets were shut off.

The Berrios campaign shot back at Kennedy saying "If Kennedy truly feels the system is "unfair," I call on him to return to taxpayers the millions of dollars in tax savings resulting from those reductions."

That prompted a blistering response from Kennedy.

"If they gave any landlord, including me, a tax break that we didn't deserve, he shouldn't just resign, he should go to jail," said Kennedy.

But as the Democrats take shots at one another, JB Pritzker turned his aim towards Gov. Bruce Rauner, turning the tables on his "I'm not in charge" quote from earlier this week.

Pritzker tried to capitalize on that during his endorsement announcement by repeatedly saying if he's elected governor, he will be in charge.
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