Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker clapped back Tuesday at fellow billionaire and key political nemesis Ken Griffin, accusing the Citadel CEO of making Chicago and the state less safe through his support of former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Speaking to the Economic Club of Chicago a day earlier, Griffin said it’s “a disgrace that our governor will not insert himself into the challenge of addressing crime in our city” and accused Pritzker of not deploying the National Guard during unrest last year over concerns about political optics.
“Let’s remember that Ken Griffin brought you Bruce Rauner,” Pritzker said Tuesday after an unrelated event in Chicago. “Ken Griffin was his biggest supporter.”
During Rauner’s single term, funding for violence prevention programs and other social services was cut off as the state went more than two years without a complete budget amid a standoff with the Democratic-controlled legislature over the governor’s pro-business, union-weakening agenda.
“I am very focused on the safety and security of the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois,” Pritzker said. “I’ve increased significantly the resources, trying to build back from what Bruce Rauner did — with the support of Ken Griffin — to our state by increasing dollars to violence interruption, violence prevention programs, by investing in our communities.”
Still, Pritzker said, “we are nearly at a state of emergency in our need to address crime.”
“We are very concerned about it at the state level and providing resources at a local level, not just to Chicago but to Rockford and other places around the state,” Pritzker said. “But we need local leadership, including the corporate leadership, to step up and help our cities.”
The governor said he’s frequently in contact with prosecutors around the state, particularly Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, and judicial leaders about ways to curb violence.
As for Griffin’s assertion that Pritzker rebuffed requests to deploy the Guard last year, the governor said, “I’m not sure why he made the false remarks that he made.”
Griffin recounted during his Economic Club appearance Monday that he was on a call with Pritzker last year during the unrest in Chicago.
“I told him to deploy the National Guard, and he goes, ‘It won’t look good for there to be men and women on Michigan Avenue with assault weapons,’” Griffin said. “‘If that saves the life of a child, I don’t care.’ And he doesn’t care.”
A Pritzker spokeswoman on Monday called Griffin “a liar” in an emailed statement.
Asked for his own solutions to the problems facing Illinois and Chicago, Griffin fell back on familiar talking points that are likely to be key components of Republican campaigns next year: cutting public employee pension benefits, supporting law enforcement officers and fixing schools.
Griffin has yet to back any of the four declared GOP candidates seeking to challenge Pritzker next year. They are state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia, Bull Valley businessman Gary Rabine, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo and Petersburg venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan.
The back-and-forth over Chicago’s violence is the latest flareup in a long-simmering feud between two of the state’s wealthiest residents.
Pritzker, the Hyatt Hotels heir whose fortune Forbes valued at $3.6 billion as of Tuesday, gave $58 million of his own money to the losing cause.