Six of the eight Democratic candidates for Illinois governor took part in a forum Friday organized by Rainbow Coalition PUSH, addressing issues facing Chicago and the state state that ranged from tax increases to combating Chicago’s gun violence.
State Sen. Daniel Biss, Madison County School Board Supt. Bob Daiber, former Ceasefire director Tio Hardiman, Chris Kennedy, Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) and J.B. Pritzker found much common ground.
However, each worked to separate himself from the pack, taking shots at Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and discussing issues front-of-mind to the primarily African-American audience.
“We heard a lot of discussion, and, frankly, a lot of agreement about a whole bunch of different issues,” Biss said.
When asked by moderator Brandis Friedman, of WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, who supported a “progressive” income tax, all six men raised their hands. Each also said they supported raising the state’s minimum wage and working to fund public schools before charter schools.
Earlier this week, a new poll commissioned by Kennedy’s campaign said he had established at least a 6 point lead ahead of rival Pritzker, whose own campaign pointed to his sharp rise in the same poll.
According to Kennedy’s campaign, a survey conducted between June 26 and 29 found that Kennedy led Pritzker 44 percent to 38 percent. Among Illinois voters who “knew both candidates,” Kennedy held a 49 percent to 37 percent lead.
Pritzker also acknowledged the similarities between candidates but asked rhetorically, “Who has the record of accomplishing big things for the people of Illinois?”
Much of the two-hour-plus forum was spent discussing gun violence and issues believed to be both its cause and effect.
Pawar suggested harsher punishments for “straw purchasers,” while also linking gun violence to poverty and economic opportunity.
Pritzker decried the “flow of illegal guns” from Illinois’ neighboring states.
“They’re killing our children,” he said.
Pritzker went on to link early childhood education — a cause he champions in campaign ads — as a deterrent to gun violence. He also said he was “outraged” by the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke.
Also in attendance at the forum were several current and former elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, former alderman and mayoral candidate Bob Fioretti and Cook County Clerk of Court Dorothy Brown.
Kennedy used much of his speaking time to rail against the property tax assessment process in Cook County.
“If you go to the 6th Ward, the 8th Ward, everybody there is paying more than they should,” Kennedy said. “Until you get pissed off, until you get angry, nothing’s going to happen. It’s a rigged system that’s screwing everybody but the super rich and the connected.”
Kennedy also proposed banning “the conflict” of elected officials also working as property tax appeals attorneys. Both Ald. Ed Burke (14th) and Illinois Speaker Mike Madigan work as property tax appeal attorneys.
Biss emphasized that he believes the Democratic Party, as it exists now, is flawed.
“I’m not scared to acknowledge we’ve got problems in our own party,” he said. “The Democratic party has taken the black community for granted.”
Daiber often pointed to his more than two decades of working in public education.
“I don’t give up on people, and I don’t give up on the state of Illinois,” he said.
Originally, Alexander Paterakis was slated to take part in the forum and Tio Hardiman was not. Paterakis did not attend and no explanation for his absence was given.