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Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018 12:07 am

A rise in polls could mean a rise in problems for Biss

Daniel Biss campaigning in Springfield.
Photo By Megan Swett

 

Gubernatorial candidates Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, and J.B. Pritzker are in the midst of a campaign battle following Biss’s rise in the polls last week.

Just prior to the State of the State address last Wednesday, news broke that Biss surpassed fellow candidate Chris Kennedy in primary polls for the first time. The surge offered new credence to Biss’s campaign, a grassroots effort in an election campaign dominated by a Republican multimillionaire and a Democratic billionaire.

“We’re excited to be surging in the polls. We’re excited that people across the state are responding to this campaign,” Biss said.

Following Governor Bruce Rauner’s State of the State address, Biss questioned the effectiveness of an “inexperienced, out-of-touch millionaire” serving as governor.

The night of the address and following his rise in the polls, Biss and his running mate, Rep. Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford, met with Springfield locals at The Office Sports Bar and Grill. One attendee, Mary Jewett of Chatham, said, “I think a lot of our representatives don’t realize who they represent. They care more about the donors.”

In response to the poll news, Pritzker, the billionaire Democratic frontrunner, released his first attack ad against Biss – or against any other Democratic candidate.

The ad, a 15-second television spot, questions Biss’s record on pensions, calling attention to a law Biss helped write in 2013 that would have cut benefits to teachers and state workers. As the ad details, the Illinois Supreme Court later found the law unconstitutional.

“I learned my lesson,” Biss said. “There was a tremendous amount of pressure to find ways to balance the budget without the revenue sources that I was pushing for, and I was too quick to accept a false choice. … In retrospect, I wish I had held out. …”

However, Biss isn’t the only candidate confronting his past actions and reconciling them with future prospects.

On Tuesday, Feb. 6, the Chicago Tribune reported on recordings from the FBI investigation of former governor Rod Blagojevich’s attempt to sell former president Barak Obama’s Senate seat following Obama’s presidential victory. The recordings captured Pritzker making racially insensitive remarks about prospective candidates.

In a press conference that afternoon, Biss said that the tapes showed “everything wrong with our politics,” and said it was time to “lift the veil” on backroom deals and systemic oppression.

“… We have to acknowledge, all of us, our own privilege, and we have to build a government that reflects the actual people it seeks to represent,” Biss said.

“I think so often we utilize being close to someone of a particular demographic as an excuse to say ‘well see, I’m not x, y, or z,’” said Wallace, Biss’s running mate. “I don’t buy into that type of thinking.”

When questioned about Pritzker’s continued support from Democratic leadership, Wallace said, “We have a systemic issue, and the Democratic Party is no different than any other system when it comes to -isms of the world. I think it’s time to address that we have systemic issues, as well … and work to change that.”

While they continue campaigning throughout the state, all six Democratic gubernatorial candidates are set to attend a debate hosted in the Studio Theater at the University of Illinois Springfield on Feb. 21.

Megan Swett is an editorial intern for Illinois Times through the public affairs reporting program of University of Illinois Springfield. Contact her at intern@illinoistimes.com.

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