By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – A Democratic state senator from the Metro East, Andy Manar of Bunker Hill, has become the subject of speculation that he might run for governor in 2018.
Manar, 41, is in his fourth year representing the far-flung 48th Senate District that runs from the northern edge of Madison County northeastward to include Decatur, part of Springfield and many rural areas.
A strong proponent of Labor and worker issues, Manar has also made a name for himself for trying to improve the state’s educational funding system. He is married, with three young children.
Speculation about who might run against anti-union Governor Bruce Rauner picked up after the November election when U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said he will not run for governor but instead remain part of the Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate.
Manar has worked his way into consideration, serving previously as alderman and mayor of Bunker Hill and on the Macoupin County Board, becoming chairman. Then he was an aide to state Sen. Vince Demuzio of Carlinville and served as chief of staff to Senate President John Cullerton. He won his current office in a 2012 election and was re-elected to a four-year term in 2014.
Recently, Manar was in the news for battling Rauner’s veto of Manar’s automatic voter registration bill, and for leading legislators in demanding that Rauner resume contract negotiations with AFSCME Council 31, which represents state government employees.
A Dec. 9 column by Greg Hinz in the weekly Crain’s Chicago Business newspaper started all of this political talk, listing Manar among several Democrats who could potentially run.
Others named who now hold office were state Treasurer Mike Frerichs, Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston, and two representatives, Cheri Bustos of Moline and Robin Kelly of Matteson. The list included two men known for other reasons – Chris Kennedy, son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, and J.B. Pritzker, worth $3.4 billion from his tech and hotel businesses.
“Bustos recently accepted a job in House Democratic leadership that will be difficult to walk away from,” he wrote. “That could make Manar the man to watch in a crowded field, especially if he’s able to consolidate Labor behind him.”
Bernard Schoenberg, political writer for the State Journal-Register in Springfield, then said in his column that Manar had been mentioned as a possible candidate.
Interviewed by Schoenberg, Manar made it clear he will be part of the effort to unseat Rauner but stopped short of saying whether he is a candidate.
“Regardless of how this moves forward, Democrats have to have a candidate that can bring a uniting message statewide, and that means we have to have a strategy that is inclusive of the entire state,” Manar said in the column.
He noted he couldn’t bring a personal fortune to the table like Pritzker. “Never have, never will,” he said. “But I think there are other factors that have to be considered when coming up with a nominee. If we’re going to straight up nominate someone who simply has money with no message and no way to deliver a message and no way to resonate with working-class voters, then we’re probably not going to fare as well as we otherwise would.”
Rich Miller, publisher of the widely read Capital Fax.com, picked up on Schoenburg’s column and added this commentary:
“I’ve known Andy for quite a long while. He’s about as sharp as they come. One problem, though, will be his school funding reform push. It’s a good idea and he’s visited just about every nook and cranny of Illinois touting it, building friendships and alliances as he goes. But the wealthier suburbs won’t like it unless there’s lots more state money put into the mix to shield them from state funding cuts. And lots more state money means, of course, a tax hike.”
That prompted a long discussion among Miller’s readers, many of them complimenting Manar, some questioning Miller’s opinion on the school funding bill and others excoriating all Democrats.
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The widespread Lee newspapers chain followed up with a story saying Manar hasn’t “ruled out” a run but is focusing on making sure Democrats mount a strong challenge.
“Like many others, my goal is to be part of a productive conversation about how we can bring forward a campaign in 2018 that is successful,” he was quoted as saying.
This article noted that Democrats could build on the success last month of U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Duckworth and state comptroller candidate Susana Mendoza but will also face a funding gap because of Rauner’s enormous wealth.
Even the Republicans have noticed the potential for Manar to run, adding him to their ever-expanding “BossMadigan.com” list of legislators to abuse for cooperating with House Speaker Mike Madigan, another strong friend of Labor.
An Illinois Republican Party press release said Manar “aspires to be a career politician,” pointing out his long record of public service and calling him the “mastermind” of redistricting in 2010.
And as for the Labor Tribune, well, we’ve known for a long time that Andy Manar has great potential and the right approach. He’s not the only one – so do several other Democratic legislators from the Metro East and southern Illinois – but we’re looking forward to seeing how it all plays out. Consider the campaign on.