Illinois Democrats Line Up to Run for Governor

Twenty months is a long time in politics. Like it or not, here in Illinois, that is how long the campaign for governor will be. In November 2018, Illinoisans will once again be going to the polls to elect or re-elect someone to run the executive branch — and that race is already underway. There are five Democrats who have announced their candidacy, and several more are rumored to be considering a run.

On the Republican side, it is assumed that Republican Governor Bruce Rauner will stand for reelection. And as of yet he doesn’t appear to have any primary challengers. If Rauner is the GOP nominee, the election will obviously be a referendum on his leadership. With the continuing budget and fiscal crisis in Illinois, Rauner has a lot of work to do to regain the trust of the voters.

Headlines such as this are common these days: “Rauner job-approval rating hits record low.”

Rauner and his fellow Republicans have spent the last two years making the very public case that Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) is the problem. The real problem, however, is that though Mike Madigan’s approval ratings are worse than Rauner’s, Madigan isn’t running for governor.

Who is running? In alphabetical order, here are the declared Democratic candidates:

  • Daniel Biss of Evanston, math teacher, former state representative, currently a state senator.
  • Bob Daiber of Marine, former teacher, current Madison County Regional Superintendent of Schools.
  • Chris Kennedy of Kenilworth, a real estate investor, former Chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and member of the Kennedy family.
  • Alex Paterakis of Vernon Hills, civil engineer and business owner.
  • Ameya Pawar of Chicago, where he is an alderman.

Among those also considering a run:

  • Robin Kelly (D-Chicago) U.S. Representative from the 2nd Congressional District.
  • J. B. Pritzker, billionaire venture capitalist, philanthropist and attorney from Chicago.
  • Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) State Senator from the 13th Senate District.

In this article we’ll introduce state State Senator Daniel Biss. Future articles will introduce the other candidates listed above.

State Senator Daniel Biss

Daniel Biss is young — only 39. He lives in Evanston with his wife and two children. He holds degrees from Harvard and MIT, and has taught math at the University of Chicago. He served a term in the Illinois state house before moving to the senate in 2013.

Biss has been a critic of both Governor Rauner and Speaker Madigan. The Rauner criticism is to be expected. The Chicago Tribune’s Rick Pearson reported some of what Biss has said about Madigan:

Asked directly in a Facebook question about Madigan, who is Rauner’s chief political nemesis, Biss sought to create some distance from the House speaker, who also chairs the state Democratic Party.

“I’ve been clear for a long time that Madigan’s been there too long,” Biss said. Madigan has been speaker for 32 of the past 34 years. Biss noted that he early on sponsored a measure to limit how long a legislative leader can serve.

At the same time, Biss said focusing on clashing personalities in Springfield such as Madigan and Rauner helps obscure the need for a comprehensive plan to restore Illinois’ economy and finances.

On the latter note, Biss has been published in academic journals such as the Annals of Mathematics. Might someone who understands math be just what Illinois needs to fix the fiscal mess? A statement announcing his candidacy included this:

Daniel isn’t a millionaire or part of any political machine. As a math professor and legislator, Daniel has spent his career finding solutions to complex problems.

Spending too much money and over-promising lavish benefits and pensions for public sector workers isn’t complex, but it is a math problem. While understanding mathematics is not the same as understanding economics, it can be helpful.

In the video on his homepage, Biss says that Illinois’ fiscal problems are solvable. We get more than a hint about his “big idea” solution: “millionaires and billionaires are not paying their fair share – so the burden is shifted to the rest of us” … “it’s time to make the billionaires pay.”

After reading that, few will be surprised to learn that according to news reports, Biss is competing for votes in the “progressive wing” of the Democratic Party. We all know what that means: he’s all in on the radical left-wing Democratic Party Platform.

“We’re building a movement more powerful than money and the machine,” his website says, “Join us.”

Feel the Bern?

Also from his website:

People across Illinois are hurting, and it’s time to be honest about why. For too long, the rich, special interests and political insiders have made decisions about us, without us. They have set up a system that benefits them, and the rest of us are paying the price.

Earlier this year, Senator Biss introduced a resolution condemning the temporary refugee order signed by President Donald Trump, calling it “cruel, unnecessary, and bigoted…”.  Biss’ resolution also called Trump’s temporary ban “malicious and arbitrary.”

During the previous session of the Illinois General Assembly (2015-2016), Senator Biss voted to support legislation to force pro-life medical workers to give referrals to abortion providers (SB 1564), and he also voted to support legislation censoring professional therapists from counseling minors who struggle with same-sex attraction and gender confusion (HB 217).

In 2013, Senator Biss voted to support legislation to redefine marriage (SB 10), to legalize “medical” marijuana (HB 1), and to mandate that public schools, grades 6-12 teach “comprehensive sex education.”  To his credit, however, he did vote against gambling expansion and a Chicago casino in 2013.

Recently, Senator Biss applauded legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois, saying:

It’s the right criminal justice policy, it’s right from the point of view of fairness, and it’s right for the state’s bottom line.

The state senate seat that Daniel Biss holds is up for reelection in 2018, so he will have to choose which office to run for as the filing deadlines approach later this year.

Image credit: Illinois Family Action.

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