Pritzker uses ‘terrible’ DeSantis as foil in national campaign on abortion rights

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DeSantis “is a terrible anti-choice governor,” Pritzker said in an interview, adding that Florida is among “the places where I’m trying to make a difference.”

Pritzker isn’t weighing in on Florida’s Democratic primary for governor, where Rep. Charlie Crist and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried are battling in a caustic rivalry. Instead, he’s committed to backing the victor of the Aug. 23 contest.

“There’s a human cry because rights that everyone thought were well-established for 50 years are going away in some places,” Pritzker said. “For me, I’m just doubling-down my support for pro-choice candidates, particularly governors who will have an enormous impact on the future of women’s reproductive rights until we can pass a federal law guaranteeing those rights.”

In the interview with POLITICO, Pritzker declined to say how much he might spend this cycle but explained his strategy for the midterms — and its limits: He plans to help Democrats running for governor in states with GOP-controlled legislatures, but he draws the line at places where Republicans hold supermajorities that could override even a governor’s veto.

He pointed to Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, who supports abortion rights and regularly does battle with a Republican-controlled legislature.

“It’s not a supermajority Republican legislature. So if we can help reelect Tony Evers and keep the legislature under a supermajority, then we’ll have a governor fighting to make the state pro-choice,” Pritzker said.

The leading Republican candidates in Tuesday’s Wisconsin gubernatorial primary, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and businessman Tim Michels, both oppose abortion rights and want to enforce a ban on the procedure that was enacted more than a century ago.

Pritzker has given $500,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin this cycle. Pritzker and his wife, MK Pritzker, have given $40,000 to Evers, according to the governor’s campaign.

In mid-July, Pritzker met with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, chair of the Democratic Governors Association, to discuss how the Illinois governor could support Democrats. That eventually led to the $2 million contribution.

Pritzker has also given $250,000 to the Minnesota Democratic Party, and MK Pritzker has given $4,000 to Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

And Pritzker expects to donate to Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s political campaign as well.

The Illinois governor has frequently said he’s supported abortion rights his “whole life,” often recalling how he marched with his mother on behalf of reproductive rights when he was a child.

This year’s unraveling of federal abortion rights by the Supreme Court ruling has made him “more animated,” Pritzker said, “because I believe that the voters are responding on this issue as they realize that rights are being taken away.”

The double-digit margin by which Kansas voters turned out last week to block an amendment to their state constitution, which would have opened the door to a potential abortion ban, was “an affirmation of what the voters are thinking,” Pritzker said.

So, despite the fact that Kansas tends to be a more Republican state, you saw a very strong majority of voters show up and vote down an effort to make abortion illegal,” Pritzker said.

And even though Indiana a few weeks later saw state lawmakers and the governor cut off access to the procedure, Pritzker said voters support abortion rights.

“You have to look properly at the polling data to understand that people don’t want these rights taken away from them,” he said.

He also sees opportunity.

During a Monday press conference, Pritzker told reporters in Chicago that he had “reached out to companies” in Indiana, encouraging them to consider a move to Illinois. His comments came after Indiana-based Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company, said it would start looking to expand its operations elsewhere in response to the state’s ban on most abortions.

“I want to make sure that they know that they’re welcome in Illinois. Any expansion that they may be looking to do, that we welcome their employees,” Pritzker told reporters.

Although Pritzker, the only governor on Forbes’ list of billionaires, said he’s not running a coordinated campaign with other donors, he said he is talking to other supporters of abortion rights and encouraging them to fund gubernatorial campaigns.

“There are substantial givers,” he said, “and they care like I do about electing pro-choice candidates.”

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