“I believe that, in order to be an effective leader, we need to know what the issues are,” Cohen says. “The Democratic Party, as well as the Republican Party, are so focused on fighting amongst themselves that they’ve lost the ability to listen to the people. I got my listening skills from being in business. I always listen to my customers. It’s the same way as an elected official – you need to listen to the people.”
Cohen, 45 and divorced with four kids, grew up in Chicago. He says he inherited his father’s pawn shop in Chicago in 1983 and soon expanded the business with two more shops. He then went into real estate, which he says is where he made most of his money – enough to fund his campaign for governor with $1.6 million in the first half of 2010.
If elected, Cohen says, his first priority would be improving the economy and creating jobs by making the state more attractive for businesses.
“Businesses are the backbone of the economy, but Illinois is not business friendly,” Cohen says. “What I bring to the table is successful business experience, and I know how to return a good business climate to this state.”
Cohen says there is a lack of leadership in the Illinois Statehouse. Republican nominee for governor Sen. Bill Brady is too far to the right, Cohen says, citing efforts by Brady to cut the minimum wage and resist equal pay for women. Cohen also calls Democratic nominee Gov. Pat Quinn incompetent, pointing to Quinn’s recent cuts to education and health care while giving raises to some of his staff.
“Illinois needs somebody who is middle of the road, and who – no matter what – has always been honest,” Cohen says. He claims he was pushed off the Democratic ticket when a few issues from his past – steroid use, allegations of abuse from an ex-girlfriend, and alleged nonpayment of child support – received high levels of media attention after he won the party’s nomination for lieutenant governor in the February primary. But Cohen says he has always been honest and upfront about his past, adding that what Illinois needs is honesty, not perfection.
“I may have made some mistakes, but I’ve always owned up to them,” he says. “The truth is, people praise me for my business savvy, for taking care of my family, for the job I did when my father was sick and I expanded the family business, and for brushing myself off and running for office again. In reality, that is my past.”
Among Cohen’s policy prescriptions are giving ethics oversight to nonpartisan watchdog groups and closing the constitutional loophole that allows state leaders to pass unbalanced budgets by pushing certain bills off to future fiscal years. He also wants to cut tax breaks for large out-of-state corporations and give more tax incentives to local small businesses. Instead of an income tax increase to fix Illinois’ dire financial problems, Cohen says he would foster business growth to raise state revenues.
“I’m just asking the people to give me one chance to show them what I can do,” Cohen says. “I’ll bring businesses back to Illinois, put the people of Illinois back to work and stimulate this economy. By doing that, I will lead Illinois back on the right road.”
Contact Patrick Yeagle at firstname.lastname@example.org.