Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker makes a call to a prospective voter during a stop in Riverside on June 22 to stump for incumbent state Rep. Michael Zalewski at Zalewski's campaign office in the Arcade Building. | Provided

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker made a quick visit to Riverside on June 22 to help state Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) beat back a spirited challenge from Abdelnasser Rashid in the June 28 Democratic primary in the 21st District.

Pritzker stopped by Zalewski’s campaign office inside the Arcade Building in downtown Riverside for a small campaign rally that drew about 50 people, including numerous other Democratic candidates, including Nicholas Kantas who is running for judge in the 4th Judicial Subcircuit against Amanda Moira Pillsbury.

Pritzker offered an enthusiastic endorsement for Zalewski and even tried his hand at phone banking, making a few calls to voters trying to persuade them to vote for Zalewski.

The governor also recently made a substantial campaign contribution to Zalewski, transferring $50,000 from his gubernatorial campaign committee to Zalewski’s political committee.

“The governor specifically has been beyond generous with his time and his resources,” Zalewski said. “He said at the event that he looks to me when he wants to get important legislation passed.”

The Pritzker contribution is just part of a flood of cash coming Zalewski’s way in the final few weeks of the campaign, allowing him to blanket mailboxes of likely Democratic voters with direct mail and pay for ads on television and social media.

The contributions have been large enough to remove state contribution caps on donations to the candidates in the race. According to the Illinois Sunshine website, the Zalewski campaign has raised $632,006 since March 31. He started April with just over $350,000 cash on hand.

Zalewski, who has been campaigning as a mainstream Democrat, has been collecting cash and getting help from a host of established players in Illinois politics. On June 16, the MOD Caucus PAC, a group of moderate Democratic state legislators that Zalewski helped found, donated $59,800 to Zalewski’s campaign.

Unions have been pouring money into Zalewski’s campaign with the political action committee of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers donating $20,000 to Zalewski’s campaign on June 21. The political committee of the AFL-CIO spent $17,000 on digital advertising to support Zalewski.

The educational advocacy group Stand for Children and the political action committee of the Illinois Association of Realtors also have donated large sums to Zalewski’s campaign. The Realtors PAC contributed $35,000 on May 2 and also is paying for direct mail. Stand for Children contributed $25,000 on May 23 and is sending out mailers supporting Zalewski.

Zalewski’s fellow state representatives have also been helping him out with four female state representatives coming to Riverside to canvass for Zalewski on June 20. Two weeks ago, House Speaker Chris Welch walked a precinct in Countryside with Zalewski. Welch’s campaign committee to support House Democrats is also sending out direct mail supporting Zalewski.

“Every traditional Democratic constituency, every leading Democrat, including Governor J.B. Pritzker and Senator Dick Durbin, every one of my colleagues, every union in the state, they’ve all made a decision that they want me back and I think it’s reflective of my record, and I think it’s reflective of the notion that they’ve decided to not go with my opponent,” Zalewski told the Landmark.

Abdelnasser Rashid (front row, center) appeared at a meet-and-greet at a Riverside home on June 23, an event that drew a couple dozen of his opponent’s fellow Riverside neighbors. | Provided

Rashid, who has raised $316,336, said it is not surprising that an incumbent like Zalewski is being supported by his legislative colleagues and by Pritzker.

“That’s one of the benefits of incumbency and, unfortunately, incumbents are supported often even when they don’t deserve it,” Rashid said.

Rashid, who is a progressive, said Zalewski is the getting support from many special interest groups.

“I’m proud to be supported by many individuals and small businesses while Representative Zalewski is taking tens of thousands of dollars from charter schools, gambling interests and property tax lawyers,” Rashid said. “Unfortunately, those are the special interests he represents in Springfield, and in fact they are financing his $915-a-month car lease and over $130,000 in legal expenses since his father’s house was raided by the FBI in the ComEd corruption scandal.”

Rashid’s largest donor is his father, Amin Rashid, who has donated $50,000 to his son’s campaign.

Rashid’s campaign has received $5,000 from the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union, the union that employs his campaign chairman, Clem Balanoff. Most of Rashid’s other four-figure donors are Arab American small-business people and professionals.

Despite being badly outspent in the final weeks of the campaign, Rashid is mounting an aggressive campaign and is posing a strong challenge to Zalewski. Rashid took his campaign to Zalewski’s home turf in Riverside on June 23, appearing at a meet and greet at the home of Rob and Kim Dixon. About 20 to 30 people turned out for the event.

“We’ve had such a positive reception and strong support from residents across the district, including in Riverside,” Rashid said.

There are many Rashid signs on Riverside lawns, and Rashid told the Landmark that he thinks he will do very well in Riverside.

“I think I’ll carry Riverside,” Rashid said.