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Illinois Democratic governor candidate sued for racial discrimination by former employees

Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker's campaign is being sued by former staffers for racial discrimination. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Former campaign staffers for Illinois Democrat J.B. Pritzker's gubernatorial campaign have filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination and seeking millions from the campaign, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The lawsuit was filed by black and Latino former campaign employees, and Pritzker quickly and completely denied the claims they made.

“To be clear, this is just not true,” Pritzker said via statement. “I am incredibly proud of our campaign, how diverse it is, and how inclusive our administration will be.”

What are they saying happened?

The lawsuit alleges that the campaign intentionally placed workers into specific jobs based on their race. Of the 10 people filing the lawsuit, nine are black and one is Latina.

According to the lawsuit, a majority of the black and Latino members of the more than 200-person campaign staff were funnelled into groups deployed into the south and west sides of Chicago, and that at least one black employee was hired to meet a black female quota.

Juliana Stratton, Pritzker's running mate, questioned whether the lawsuit was genuine.

"When people feel like they have been harassed or discriminated against, they have the right to come forward and have their voices heard," Stratton said, questioning whether this lawsuit was really a "good-faith effort."

The plaintiffs are asking for a $7.5 million settlement and for the campaign to hire a diversity officer for the remaining weeks of the campaign.

Troubling racial history?

In 2008, Pritzker was recorded making some questionable remarks about who would replace former Sen. Barack Obama after he was elected president.

Pritzker is heard telling former Gov. Rod Blagojevich that appointing then-Secretary of State Jesse White would "cover you on the African-American thing." Blagojevich was being secretly wiretapped by the FBI at the time. Pritzker and Blagojevich are also heard mockingly mimicking Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor.

In February, Pritzker apologized for the remarks.

What did Rauner say?

"These allegations are serious," Gov. Bruce Rauner said of the lawsuit against his opponent. "They need to be investigated and I think the people of Illinois deserve to know the truth about Mr. Pritzker's actions.

"Unfortunately, this seems to be a pattern with Mr. Pritzker. I'm not sure that any of us should be surprised that his campaign may have engaged in discriminatory practices," Rauner continued.


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