By CARL GREEN
Collinsville, IL – Illinois Democrats will have a full slate of candidates to choose from to run against Governor Bruce Rauner in his re-election bid next year.
But Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) will not to be one of them.
Manar, a leader on education funding, voting access and Labor issues, had considered running but decided against it.
“As a husband, a father of three young children, and as the State Senator of the 48th District, a long, expensive campaign for governor would be unfair, both to my family, and to the people who have elected me to help create jobs, get our state’s finances under control and create a fair school funding formula, an issue for which I have a great deal of passion,” Manar said in announcing his decision.
That leaves Madison County Regional Superintendent of Schools Bob Daiber as the only downstate candidate among Democrats.
Daiber, a surprise entry into the race last month, told the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor at its recent awards banquet that he has been pleased with the response so far.
“I have emerged as a real candidate,” he said. “This is for real. Some people thought it was a joke, but it’s for real. I’ve been doing this for six weeks, and I’m getting people’s attention.”
He was in Chicago recently for an endorsement interview by the Illinois AFL-CIO. His public event in Edwardsville to sign a no “right-to-work” pledge made some news.
“I did something that no one else in the whole country has done – I signed a pledge that if I’m elected to become governor, there would be no right-to-work in this state,” he said, drawing loud applause from the banquet attendees.
A video of the signing picked up some 35,000 views online in just six hours, he said. “That went so viral that Channel 5 in Lubbock, TX, read the story, because there’s an uprising by Labor people in Texas to repeal ‘right-to-work.’ ”
Daiber added, “If I become governor, Illinois is not going to be looked at as the state that’s last in Labor, it’s going to be looked at as the state that’s first.”
Daiber has posted a campaign website, bobdaiber.com, that offers video of his speeches, ways to donate or volunteer, and updates on his campaign activities, such as a recent appearance before members of the Illinois Education Association teachers union and photos from the Monroe County Democrats’ annual dinner.
AFL-CIO: DON’T RUSH DECISION
The Illinois AFL-CIO Executive Board has been meeting with the announced Democratic candidates in informal question-answer sessions, in part to develop an issue-based campaign to expose Rauner’s anti-worker agenda and actions, President Michael Carrigan said.
Carrigan is not in a hurry to endorse a candidate.
“It’s important that Labor not rush to decisions on candidates until we have all the information in front of us,” he said. “We must move together for this election. Working people and the most vulnerable are getting hurt because of Rauner. We have to get this right, and we have to stay together.
There is no shortage of candidates. All are from Cook County except for Daiber, with some representing big money and business and others coming from government positions. They include:
- Chris Kennedy – A businessman, former chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and the fifth son of Senator Robert Kennedy. He is expected to have substantial resources for both the primary and general election.
- Senator Daniel Biss, a mathematician who since 2013 has represented the 9th District, including northern Chicago suburbs.
- Ameya Pawar, 47th Ward Chicago alderman since 2011 and the first to declare for governor. He worked in the Office for Emergency Management at Northwestern University. He is proposing a progressive, graduated income tax.
- Alex Paterakis, a civil engineer and small business owner.
- J.B. (Jay Robert) Pritzker, a venture capitalist, Hyatt hotels heir and billionaire with the kind of money to rival Rauner’s own supply, announced his bid Thursday. He headed the Illinois Human Rights Commission and advocates for early childhood education. His sister, Penny Pritzker, was Commerce secretary for President Obama.
Numerous other prominent and not-so-prominent Democrats are believed to be considering a run, although not Senator Dick Durbin, who was many people’s first choice, nor State Treasurer Michael Frerichs. Both have opted out.
Political columnist Rich Miller, in his Capital Fax, described the race as breaking into two factions – one to be the well-funded frontrunner, including Kennedy and Pritzker, and the other to become “top underdog,” with Pawar, Biss and Daiber all possibilities, as well as Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summer, if he joins the race.
The publication POLITICO floated another intriguing notion – that Senator Sam McCann, the union-supporting Republican from nearby Plainview, might challenge Rauner in the Republican primary after bucking him on some key votes. According to the report, some influential Republicans have been asking McCann to run.
McCann told POLITICO it’s too soon to say.
“I do not intend to think about the concept of running for governor, let alone comment on it, until after May 31, if at all,” he was quoted as saying. “There was a significant segment of the party that attempted to recruit me to run as an independent in 2014. I chose not to do that because I wanted to play a role in bringing my party and my beloved state together, not see them both torn apart more than they already were.
“Fast forward to the present and we see our state more divided and in bigger shambles than ever. It’s heart-wrenching,” he added. “I have been casually approached by some within the party about running for governor. I have said to each of them what I will say to you now: I am a patriot. I do not believe it is fitting or proper for anyone of either party to actively and openly campaign for any state office as long as the General Assembly is engaged in its regular spring session. Especially considering the historic times in which we find ourselves.”
Rich Miller noted that McCann is up for re-election to his Senate seat and could not match Rauner’s resources, making a primary challenge of Rauner “almost undoubtedly a Kamikaze mission” for McCann.
Manar said he now will continue to focus on creating jobs, stabilizing state finances and creating a fair school funding formula.
“Illinois continues to operate without a budget, our economy continues to lag behind our neighboring states and the nation as a whole, and our schools continue to shortchange children in nearly all but the most well-off suburban Chicago districts,” he said.
“Our governor, two years into his term, has failed to grow into the leadership role we so desperately need, instead choosing to use his ample wealth and the position in which the people entrusted him to put partisan politics in their most foolish, destructive forms ahead of substantive negotiation and competent reforms.
“The Legislature, to be sure, is not blameless. But absent even a hint of leadership from the governor, there is little direction, and even less progress.”
Manar added that he will continue to be a “strong voice” for central Illinois.
“The families I represent, and working families throughout the state, bear no responsibility in the dysfunction of Springfield. And yet they bear nearly all of the burdens of a government that refuses to get its act together. It’s unjust. And it’s not who we are as Illinoisans or as Americans,” he said.
“I won’t stop fighting for you. And despite the seemingly impossible situation we find ourselves in, I truly believe in our people, and I believe we can strengthen all of our schools, create broad economic opportunities, and restore the lost pride in this great state.”