Daniel Biss is not your average political adversary. The former University of Chicago mathematics professor decided to take a leap of faith tossing in his bid to run for Illinois State Representative for the 17th District. After a second attempt, his persistence and ground level strategy earned him a seat to represent constituents in Evanston and Skokie communities.
In 2012, he went on to win the state Senate election gradually becoming a fresh and familiar face of the Democratic party. His easy approach to discussing the problems that Illinoisans face daily had the short prospects on the 2015 Illinois gubernatorial race. Biss passeed on the opportunity to build his legislative chops and positioning.
Now, with nearly a decade of experience as a state legislator—Biss announced his candidacy for the top state government office in Illinois in May.
With a recent endorsement by Congressman Robin Kelly and Senator Pat McGuire, the husband and father of two stopped by The Chicago Defender to discuss some key points of his campaign agenda.
Why do you feel it’s important to run for the governor’s office?
There’s two different things going on—one is that Rauner has taken a torch to the state and burned it down. Secondly, he has taken a torch to the state that was already in a ton of trouble.
In addition, we have the most unjust school system in the country. We have a bill the governor has vetoed that if it becomes law, it will improve our school funding system but it will still be the worst in the country.
It’s time to actually rethink the way we do this—in a serious way and in a bold way—a transformational way, and it’s not just about beating Rauner. If we beat Rauner, then we’re still where we were at before with the school funding crisis.
We cannot get back to where we were before because the taxes are by the rich for the rich.
What are your first steps if elected as Governor?
I think it starts with our tax codes. Illinois has one of four state constitutions that says you have a flat income tax. This is a weird thing in the constitution that says you can tax someone making $20 million the same as someone making $20,000 a year. Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri and Kentucky are not like that. It’s just us. It means our taxes are too high on the middle class.
We got to fix that first.
Democratic Congressman Brad Schneider [10th District] has been supportive.
You’ll see more endorsements in the next few weeks because I’ve had the real privilege in working with these folks and earning their support. Not because I need their support on March 20 but because I’ve been in the public life in the last decade.
The endorsements that we have, the volunteers and energy that we have—we have the tools to put this together. Will it be easy? No. Are we going to spend as many dollars on television ads as Pritzker? No way. Am I the guy from a famous political family? No. But I think you look at what the voters want and the team that we’re putting together, I feel that we’re really well positioned to catch that wave.
What do you feel candidates should address as the top three issues that concern Illinois residents?
I think people feel our governor is not working for the rest of us. We have a governor that is run by a few people for a few people. The rest of us are left out in the cold.
Taxes are a huge problem.
A school funding system that punishes people across Illinois is at the top of people’s minds.
A government that looks at neighborhoods where money is left, jobs are left and opportunities are left instead of saying “We’re going to put money back in and put people to work,” they say we’re going to walk away and put the money somewhere else. That’s so much on people’s minds. There are people on the South and West Side of Chicago and people across Illinois in poor, rural communities as well who think, “Where the hell has the state gone and why did you walk away from us?”
When you look at the decisions that are being made from the federal level, county and city level, what are some of the thoughts that run through your mind? Let’s start with the soft beverage tax in Cook County that could disrupt federal funding for the SNAP program on a state level
I would assume everyone on the county level would not allow this to happen. I’ve fought to expand the SNAP program to 40,000 working families to take advantage of additional federal monies. The county obviously needs to balance their budget. The right way to invest money for the state, county and the city to balance their budget is to have the right governor to fight for progressive taxation on the state level. We’ve left the city and county high and dry unable to get revenue in a fair way.