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During stop at ISU, Pritzker says he'll push for free college for low and middle-income students

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Eric Stock
From left, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, former McLean County Democrats chair Nikita Richards, Illinois House candidate Sharon Chung, Gov. JB Pritzker, and state Sen. Dave Koehler campaign at Illinois State University on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. The election is next week.

Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker dangled the promise of free college for low- and middle-income students during a campaign stop Wednesday at Illinois State University.

Pritzker stumped on the ISU Quad alongside fellow Democrats U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, state Sen. Dave Koehler, and Illinois House candidate Sharon Chung. Pritzker himself is running for a second term in next week’s election, against Republican challenger Darren Bailey.

Pritzker told the crowd that he would push to make college free for Illinoisans at or below median income levels. When asked by WGLT how he intended to pay for it, Pritzker said he and Democrats in the legislature “balanced four budgets in a row, we paid off all of our state’s overdue bills, (and) we got six credit upgrades.”

“We need to keep balancing the budget moving forward and running surpluses. That’s what’s going to allow us to raise the amount of money available for college scholarships and let more students go to college for free,” Pritzker said. “We have been fiscally responsible. The Republicans are a bunch of pretenders. It’s the Democrats who are fiscally responsible.”

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Eric Stock
Sen. Dick Durbin also noted the political purpling of McLean County – a longtime Republican county that was one of 77 in the U.S. that flipped from President Trump to President Biden in 2020.

Pritzker said that financial stability was one reason he and lawmakers have been able to “keep building on our MAP grants every single year.”

“We’re just moving steadily toward being able to provide free college for everybody at a median income level or below,” Pritzker said.

Chung is a Democratic McLean County Board member from Bloomington. She’s running against Republican Scott Preston of Normal for the open 91st Illinois House District seat, one of the most competitive House races in the state.

Chung has earned the full backing of the state’s Democratic Party – and the big money that comes with it. Durbin endorsed Chung even before her summer primary win. Appearing alongside her on Wednesday, Durbin said she’d be an “extraordinary asset to Governor Pritzker.”

Durbin also noted the political purpling of McLean County – a longtime Republican county that was one of 77 in the U.S. that flipped from President Trump to President Biden in 2020.

“I can tell you in my memory, there were days when we’d never gather a rally like this before an election in McLean County,” Durbin said at ISU. “But things have changed.”

Meanwhile, Preston announced he had received endorsements from several mayors of cities in the 91st House District, including Leon Ricca (Bartonville), Gary Manier (Washington), John Kahl (East Peoria), and Jeff Kaufman (Morton). Preston, who also received big financial support from his party, is a Normal Town Council member.

“We need true leaders like Scott in Springfield who are willing to serve the best interests of the people. Scott has proven to be a community leader in Normal and understands the importance of having local representation at the state level” said Kahl.

Election Day is Nov. 8. Early voting is underway.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at