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Thursday, Dec. 8, 2005 09:03 pm

Thinking Green

The Rev. Dan Rodriguez-Schlorff has money and the state treasurer’s seat on his mind

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The Rev. Dan Rodriguez-Schlorff: “I do plan to be unabashedly out throughout my campaign."
Should the question arise as he campaigns downstate, the Rev. Dan Rodriguez-Schlorff plans to answer: “Yes, I identify as queer.”
And young. Part Filipino. A minister. A venture capitalist. A former Republican. A Green Party member. It’s a good thing for Rodriguez-Schlorff that most of those qualities don’t necessarily count you out of an Illinois election. With a rather late announcement that she will seek the governor’s seat, state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka has left a fairly level field for candidates who want the job she is giving up, several of whom have launched their campaigns in the past two weeks: • State Sen. Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, the Republicans’ pick to replace Topinka, has started circulating petitions. • The state Democratic Party has backed Knox County State’s Attorney Paul Mangieri. • Banking heir Alexi Giannoulias has the support of some heavy-duty Illinois Democrats in U.S. Sen. Barack Obama and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Representing the Green Party, Rodriguez-Schlorff says that he was a stone-cold Republican until five years ago. “I used to be anti-gay marriage, ironically,” he says. “I used be anti-abortion, anti-this, anti-that, just like a lot of Republicans. “I was involved in anti-abortion groups. Luckily I never attended any protests, probably because I was too busy crusading against gay rights.”
Interestingly enough, more because of the party’s economic libertarianism than because of its conservative social agenda, Rodriguez-Rodriguez-Schlorff jettisoned the GOP for the Green Party during the 2000 election, when he began campaigning for Ralph Nader. Initially passing up the opportunity to run for the Legislature, Rodriguez-Schlorff, 25, decided this year that he wanted to help give the Illinois Green Party the teeth to be “more than just a political activist group.” “It gets really tiring after a while, having no political power other than, ‘Say, elected official, would you be able to do this for us? Please?’ ” Rodriguez-Schlorff says. Fearing that because he’s young, gay, and Green, voters may dismiss him as a viable contender, Rodriguez-Schlorff plans to persuade Illinoisans to elect him on the basis of his experience as a successful investor and former health-agency auditor.
In high school, Rodriguez-Schlorff and his brother started a vending-machine business, the money from which he invested in mutual funds. Today, although admittedly not a millionaire, Rodriguez-Schlorff lives comfortably in North Chicago’s upscale Lakeview neighborhood and, for now, finances his campaign out of his pocket.
“I have no problem — and some Greens would really wring my neck after saying this — that I’m a venture capitalist. We live in capitalistic society. We can’t pretend that we don’t, and, yes, we can try to effect change within capitalism.”
 Originally from Indiana, Rodriguez-Schlorff has identified small-business investment and single-payer health-care insurance as two of his top priorities. He plans to invest state funds heavily in agriculture and socially responsible corporations, particularly those involved in the production of corn-based ethanol. Rodriguez-Schlorff lauds Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s All Kids plan as good step for children but says that he would like to see some form of universal health care. “There are certain things that should be socialized, but that doesn’t mean that we need to suddenly reject world capitalism and become a socialist state,” he says. “There’s a difference between socializing certain things and becoming socialist.”
As a minister in the United Church of Christ, Rodriguez-Schlorff has traveled to parts of the state in which his opponents have yet to make inroads. He plans to also make nondiscrimination issues and gay marriage part of his campaign, even as he campaigns downstate. “I don’t plan on being in-your-face about being gay,” he says, “but I do plan to be unabashedly out throughout my entire campaign,”
Besides, Rodriguez-Schlorff says, he can convince voters that “if there’s any place you can feel comfortable in voting for a gay person, it should probably be the Illinois state treasurer, because it’s not a policy-maker position.”
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