ENDORSEMENT: Ram Villivalam in Illinois Senate 8th District Democratic primary

SHARE ENDORSEMENT: Ram Villivalam in Illinois Senate 8th District Democratic primary

Ram Villivalam is endorsed in the Illinois Senate 8th District Democratic primary on March 20. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

State Sen. Ira Silverstein is damaged goods, and he hasn’t proven to be much of a repairman.

Silverstein bumbled his way across the ethical line last year when he sent inappropriate, private Facebook messages to a victims’ rights advocate whose legislation he was sponsoring. The Illinois legislative inspector general got it right last month when she ruled that Silverstein was not guilty of sexual harassment, but had behaved “in a manner unbecoming a legislator.”

The inspector general also got it right when she wrote that Silverstein “does not appear fully to accept that the [Facebook] messages went beyond joking around.” That’s certainly how it looked to us earlier this month when Silverstein met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board. He had an odd way of couching his mea culpa, of ‘fessing up without ‘fessing up.

The time is right for a new state senator to lead the 8th District on the North Side, and we believe the voters have a capable, knowledgeable and progressive choice in labor union activist Ram Villivalam.

Villivalam has been a strong advocate for improved health care and child-care services as well as a $15 minimum wage. He is extremely well versed on such issues, which should surprise no one given that he was a legislative coordinator for Service Employees International Union, Healthcare Illinois-Indiana. This union has an ownership stake in the Sun-Times.

SEIU Healthcare is backing Villivalam financially, which begs the question of how independent he will be if elected. Villivalam’s response is that, realistically speaking, almost no candidate can win a competitive election in Illinois without a lot of cash. If the candidate is not super wealthy, like two or three of the folks running for governor, he or she must raise money elsewhere. Villivalam says the union is backing him because they share his views, but he’ll be his own man.

We can hope.

Villivalam’s record of standing up for the interests of working people makes him the easy choice in this race, and we endorse him.

“They need someone that’s going to go there on Day 1, not someone that’s an insider but someone that understands the process, been through it and can start to pass legislation in their first year,” Villivalam told the Editorial Board, speaking of his efforts in Springfield in the last year to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which passed in the General Assembly but was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Villivalam was working for the union back then, but a better hourly wage is a matter of utmost importance to all hourly workers in Illinois. On this and other issues, we look forward to Villivalam staying true to his values while extending his legislative reach.

Villivalam is endorsed over Silverstein, first elected in 1998; Caroline McAteer-Fournier, an associate director at DePaul University’s Career Center who is passionate about health care, and attorney David A. Zulkey.

When the Democrats running in the 8th Illinois Senate District primary visited the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board on Feb. 6, we asked each to introduce themselves to voters. Here was Ram Villivalam’s response:

EDITOR’S NOTE: Over the next few weeks, the Sun-Times will continue to offer its endorsements in competitive Chicago-area primaries, from governor down to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, including Cook County races.

To read the endorsements we have made so far — in 12 congressional races and the Cook County  Democratic primary for assessor — and to read candidate questionnaires and watch video introductions, go online to our 2018 Illinois Primary Voting Guide.

Election Day is March 20. Early voting at satellite facilities begins March 5.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com

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