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Illinois Governor Middle Class Candidate

Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Illinois Sen. Daniel Biss, of Evanston, talks to students during a campaign stop on the University of Chicago campus in Chicago. The former math professor who reported income of less than $35,000 last year is campaigning as a middle-class candidate in an Illinois governor’s race that includes a couple millionaires and a billionaire. 


When you cast your vote on March 20, the name not on the ballot is the name that counts: House Speaker Mike Madigan.

The race for governor — particularly the primary election — is more about who can work with Madigan than who has the best ideas to clean out the state's monetary septic tank. When Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner entered office in 2015, the political neophyte took over the job with our blessing. Politics as usual no longer worked for Illinois. Something new was needed.

But Rauner met his match in Madigan, and it’s telling that the incumbent governor has a primary opponent in his first bid for re-election. On the Democrat ticket, we think state Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston has the political pedigree and across-the-aisle political style that will allow him to work constructively with both Republicans and Democrats — yet unabashedly stand against Madigan when needed. And, trust us, it will be needed.

After meeting with both Republicans and four of the six Democrats, the Herald & Review editorial board is endorsing Biss for the Democratic primary nomination.

Biss is a Harvard/MIT grad who taught math at the University of Chicago before becoming an organizer and running for office. He touts himself as the middle-class choice; his wife just finished her doctoral degree and the couple has two young kids.

With a couple of terms under his belt as state legislator, he knows how Springfield works. He readily admits he's part of a state government that has failed its citizens, which is why he is running for the top job.

He’s made friends; he knows where people stand. He knows how to get things done in a quiet, efficient way. He’s smart but accessible, explaining concepts in a way easily understood by students or – ahem — the middle class. But he also is smart enough to weed out the half-truths and look solely at the numbers to reach his own interpretation.

Sort of like another state senator from Illinois who went on to great things.

As with most of the leading Democrats, Biss favors a progressive income tax, where the rich pay a higher percentage more than those who are not (we're not sold on that one by a long shot); more equitable school funding; infrastructure improvements that include transit, water, and broadband; term limits for General Assembly leaders; and investments in new companies and higher education, community college and vocational education.

He believes in a state government that takes care of maintenance, but also has a visionary plan for the future.

“It’s not the resources, it’s where it’s spent,” he told the Herald & Review editorial board. Money needs to be spent “where it’s needed, and not where it’s wanted. … We need to lift up people everywhere, not just certain places or people.”

The other Democrats on the ticket, Chicagoans J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy, and Madison County’s Bob Daiber, should work with Biss to ensure he wins in November. They have connections in business, social services and education, all of which can be used to bolster Biss’ standing — and to defeat Rauner.

They also have good ideas: Pritzker discussed a loaned-leadership program in Chicago where companies provide workers to help groups or schools that need specific help. Kennedy wants reform to end abuse of the property tax appeal process that is rampant in the Chicago area and is a windfall to law firms like Madigan's. Daiber, a regional school superintendent, wants business incubators similar to one in Metro East.

Madigan’s stranglehold on the General Assembly drives the governor’s race. It’s not just who is the best Democrat to run against (presumably) Rauner in the fall, but the best Democrat who can work with Mike Madigan to return this state to its former glory.

Daniel Biss is that Democrat.


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