Primary 2018 Endorsements
March 8, 2018

Chris Kennedy

Governor—Democratic Primary

“Have your pencils and scorecards ready,” famed Chicago Cubs announcer Pat Pieper would say before he announced the baseball lineup for the nine players ready to race onto the field at Wrigley Field. The Democratic slate for Governor is almost as full with six candidates vying for your vote on March 20.

Tio Hardiman has spent a good deal of his time in Chicago trying to stem the violence in our streets as former director of Ceasefire. Dr. Robert Marshall is a Burr Ridge physician who wants to divide Illinois into three portions and is urging you to vote for the legalization of marijuana. Madison County School Superintendent Bob Daiber is for bonding out the State’s debt to get the budget under control and to fund pensions, collective bargaining and unions, and establishing community healthcare centers.

The three candidates who are garnering the most attention to date and leading in the polls are State Senator Daniel Biss and businessmen Chris Kennedy and J.B. Pritzker.

All three are strong candidates who, as Governor, could address the critical issues we see for our State:  funding education fairly while easing escalating property taxes; balancing the budget short-term while coming up with a solution on pension funding and reform; growing our economy by fixing our infrastructure and attracting new businesses; addressing the opioid addiction crisis; and curbing gun violence by passing sensible legislation and providing resources (i.e., education, skills training, and jobs) to offer youth a pathway from gangs and crime.

That’s a lot of heavy lifting, but we feel good about Democratic chances come November with one of these vying for Governor.

J.B. Pritzker’s willingness to put $50 million of his own money into his campaign caught the early attention of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, Democratic Party Chairman Joseph Berrios, and union heavyweights. It sure was easier for them to have Pritzker put in his own chips rather than them having to do the fundraising needed to go up against incumbent millionaire Governor Bruce Rauner (if he survives his own primary race—see below).

Overall, J.B. Pritzker is a good person and has shown a commitment to Chicago. Yet, he did more than just push his chips onto the table—he also stuck his foot in his mouth some time ago in a private conversation with disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich. Ah, Chicago politics. Curious how an FBI tape from ten years ago made it into the public domain and into Governor Bruce Rauner’s campaign ads. Nonetheless, Mr. Pritzker was overheard making disparaging remarks about three African American candidates Blago was considering for filling the vacant US Senate seat of Barack Obama. Many leaders in Chicago’s African-American community have forgiven Pritzker, while others remain disenchanted.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out on March 20 among African American voters.

Senator Daniel Biss is a progressive legislator from Evanston. He is bright, articulate, passionate, and has a strong understanding about what is broken in Illinois government and how to fix it. Biss feels that Madigan wields too much power in the State for all his years in office and failed to respond quickly enough in dealing with sexual harassment charges among one of his staffers. Our one criticism of Sen. Biss is his prior backing of a pension reform bill that would have reduced benefits and was ultimately struck down by the Illinois State Supreme Court. This was an odd stray for someone who espouses progressive issues and has shown concern for the middle class and fair wages for all.

Chris Kennedy has made Illinois his home since the 1980s. He ran the Kennedy family’s Merchandise Mart for 12 years before selling it and entering the real estate development world. He currently is developing Wolf Point along the north branch of the Chicago River. Kennedy also served as chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees for six years under Governor Patrick Quinn.

We are impressed with Kennedy’s overall platform. He has an eight-point plan to deal with gun violence. He is calling for a crackdown on the “gun trains” that traffic hundreds of illegal guns into Illinois every year—and into the hands of the most hardened criminals. Kennedy is a rare political candidate who can speak personally and passionately about gun violence. His father, Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated during his campaign for President in June 1968. The deaths of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy only months apart rocked our country 50 years ago and not much has changed (see our Editorial on pages 28-29 on the recent death of Commander Paul Bauer and the tragedy in Parkland, FL). Kennedy’s running mate for Lieutenant Governor, Ra Joy, also tragically lost a loved one to gun violence.

Kennedy opposes the expansion of charter schools that are a detriment to public education. Kennedy believes that education and jobs will help turn the tide on violence in Chicago and across the State. We certainly agree. He is against the legalization of recreational marijuana—standing out from most in the crowd and we agree with him. We have no confidence that our State can manage the numerous issues that will come with legalized marijuana. We are concerned with what we perceive as the State’s inability to oversee the legal distribution and not have it get into the hands of our young people. We are also concerned that once again this State will take a treasure trove of money (estimated to be $700 million annually) that could be earmarked for education and see it go “poof” into thin air (sorry, pardon the pun). We also like it that he promises to fix what he calls “a broken tax system that benefits connected property tax attorneys,” and that he has plans to fix the economy by creating programs to help the workforce, including a $15 minimum wage, while also creating business-friendly programs as well.

The most challenging task for editors when determining endorsements is to have to choose from a strong field of candidates. This is certainly the case here as Democrats have three strong choices to select from for their candidate for Governor.  We like the independent and progressive stances of Daniel Biss and Chris Kennedy. We give the nod to Chris Kennedy based on his overall depth of knowledge about the core issues, his success in the business world, his understanding of education, and the intangibles that he would lead from a position of compassion for addressing the needs of all people across the State of Illinois.

Bruce Rauner.

Governor—Republican Primary

Unlike the crowded Democratic field, Republican voters are faced with a more manageable choice between two candidates this primary season to vie for the Governor’s mansion in November. In most cases this would be the norm—but the past three years have been anything but normal for Illinois citizens. It’s not often that one of the two candidates is actually the incumbent who happens to live in the mansion part-time and has been forking over at least $1 million of his own money to pay for its rehab.

Bruce Rauner has been a dismal failure as Governor of Illinois. He has done his hardheaded best to dismantle public sector unions and turn Illinois into a right-to-work-state like his hero, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, has done to our hard-working neighbors to the north. Often staying a far distance from President Donald Trump, Governor Rauner on the other hand was all too eager to trek to Washington, DC, recently and argue before the Supreme Court in support of Mark Janus and Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31 and his all out tilt against pubic sector unions.

For three years, Gazette Chicago has railed against our Governor, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we are hard-pressed to find praise for someone who has accomplished, well, just about nothing. Did we mention he is rehabbing the Governor’s Mansion? Not exactly a high priority when our educational system is teetering on collapse; our social service agencies and access to care hospitals and clinics are starving to death; there has been zero growth to our economy with few new businesses moving into Illinois; and gun violence continues to plague us as the public health epidemic that it is. He has acted like a spoiled billionaire who stomps his feet when he cannot get his way (sound familiar? Do his actions resemble another billionaire elected official who often pouts when he doesn’t get his way?).

Governor Rauner, who touts himself as a successful businessman, could not pass a budget in his first two years in office. The only reason we have a budget this fiscal year is that a few courageous Republican lawmakers finally said, “enough is enough” and crossed the aisle and voted with their Democratic colleagues to pass a budget and override the Governor’s veto. And then, Rauner had the audacity to take credit for the budget’s passing. Amazing. 

No matter what he fails to accomplish, no matter how frustrated he gets by failing to learn how to run government  and to reach across the aisle in political compromise, Governor Rauner has only one out, and frankly, it’s getting old. Everything is the fault of Darth Vader, er, Illinois House majority leader Michael Madigan. Look, Madigan is not perfect (see above endorsement), but it’s really an old saw that is getting pretty dull when all you have from our State leader is “It’s Madigan’s fault!” As we said on these editorial pages a few months ago, the only common denominator in the lack of a State budget for two consecutive years and heading towards a third (while Madigan has been in Springfield for 48 years), is Rauner. Madigan worked with previous Republican Governors and helped pass budgets. Not with an obstinate Rauner at the helm, though.

So, with Rauner disappointing Democrats and Republicans alike, a challenger rushes to the scene to save the GOP. Welcome to the race Jeanne Ives, a State Representative from Wheaton, who considers herself both a fiscal and social conservative. From what we have seen so far, Ives is running just to the right of Attila the Hun.

When barraged with criticism from Republicans across the State for her despicable television ad that was meant to help light the fire under ultra-conservatives, Ives held her ground and didn’t back down. It didn’t matter that she hired a cast of bad actors to offend women, immigrants, transgender people, and Chicago teachers. Ives is fuming that Rauner signed several pieces of legislation that go against most of her far-right wing platform. To her rescue rides millionaire businessman Richard Uihlein who fled the Rauner coop when it wasn’t conservative enough and has poured $2 million into Ives campaign. Ah, to be rich and Republican in Illinois. Far as we know, billionaire buddy Ken Griffin is sticking with Rauner.

Ives has been critical of funding for Chicago Public Schools. She has been on attack mode for Rauner’s handling of the Legionnaire’s disease debacle at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy. Frankly, there is nothing in her platform that would offer any assistance to our community. Her proposed freeze on property taxes is no different than Rauner’s strategy—and it will only siphon away the tax dollars for CPS that come from Chicago and put them into the State’s coffers.

Both Rauner and Ives are campaigning across the southern half of Illinois and are trying to pit everyone south of Interstate 80 against those horrible people up in Chicago. What a shame, and what a terrible way to govern.

We, at Gazette Chicago, take our endorsements seriously and we don’t shirk from the responsibility, even when the choices aren’t great. Recall how the Chicago Tribune in 2016 made the unfathomable choice of Libertarian Gary Johnson for President. Really? My goodness, what a lame way out.

In a year where there is absolutely nothing normal when it comes to our politics, Gazette Chicago holds it nose and endorses Bruce Rauner in the Republican primary.  At least we know what we are up against with Rauner. The alternative with Ives is much more uncertain and scary.

Pat Quinn.

Attorney General—Democratic Primary

With incumbent Attorney General Lisa Madigan declining to run, the seat is open and Democrats Scott Drury, Sharon Fairley, Aaron Goldstein, Pat Quinn, Renato Mariotti, Kwame Raoul, Jesse Ruiz, and Nancy Rotering are seeking the post.

Our particular concern with Raoul, Ruiz, and Rotering is that all three have accepted contributions from public utilities. Lisa Madigan never took a nickel from them in 15 years and Goldstein and Quinn have pledged not to take utilities’ contributions as well.

To us, the choice comes down to the two most progressive candidates, Goldstein and Quinn.

Goldstein advocates treatment for drug addicts and the mentally ill instead of incarceration, reform of the property tax system, campaign finance reform, environmental protection, racial and LBGTQ justice, and gun control.

Quinn would be an active consumer advocate, fight for union and workers’ rights, protect the Affordable Care Act, and hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for drug addiction.

Both are good candidates, but in a close decision Pat Quinn receives our endorsement As a former Governor, he knows how to get things done in government, and we admire his record of progressive activism that goes back to the 1980s.

Erika Harold.

Attorney General—Republican Primary

In the Republican primary, DuPage County Board member Gary Grasso is running against attorney Erika Harold.

Grasso has been under a cloud for allegedly taking campaign contributions from foreign companies and from businesses that have ties to people who have done time in Federal prison.

The media have had fun with the fact that Harold is a former Miss America, but she used that role to fight youth violence and bullying.  She attended Harvard Law School and worked in some prestigious Illinois law firms, was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to its Committee on Equality, and she is on the national board of Prison Fellowship, where she advocates for criminal justice reform.

Erika Harold has good experience and good stands on the issues, and receives our endorsement.

Board President—Democratic Primary

Bob Fioretti is challenging incumbent Toni Preckwinkle for Cook County Board President in the Democratic Primary. They share something in common—both previously served as Aldermen in the City Council. Fioretti was Alderman of the 2nd Ward before a backroom deal during the last ward remap moved him out of his ward—in fact, the Council was so bold that they moved the entire 2nd Ward further north. With Fioretti fighting throat cancer at the time, his colleagues saw an opportunity to ace him out of the council while adding one more Hispanic Ward. Fioretti wasn’t happy and turned his attention to running in 2015 against Mayor Rahm Emanuel, with whom he often feuded with while in the City Council. We all know the results of that election.

Bob Fioretti.

Preckwinkle is seeking her third term as Board President. She has achieved a lot during her tenure including strengthening the County’s healthcare system. Advocating on behalf of the Affordable Care Act, she helped promote insurance for thousands of County residents and pushed the system into the black in consecutive years in 2015 and 2016—no small feat, indeed. She has pushed for reform of the court system for those who haven’t committed serious crimes awaiting trial. She is leading an effort to build new facilities at the Cook County Jail.

Preckwinkle has been reeling from the repeal of the highly unpopular sugary drink tax she ushered in last year. The penny per ounce tax didn’t go well with County residents and the soda industry poured millions into a campaign to pressure the Board to repeal the tax. She has been forced to make unpopular layoffs to offset $200 million lost from the sales tax.

We have always admired Preckwinkle for her independent stances, but we are very troubled by her staunch support of County Assessor Joseph Berrios in the upcoming primary. Berrios has come under fire from a review by the Civic Consulting Alliance based on reports from ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune, whose reports uncovered an unfair system in the Assessor’s Office that overvalued homes in lower income areas in mostly minority communities while favoring wealthier homeowners. Could this be the second strike that puts Preckwinkle at risk in this election?

As Alderman, Fioretti prioritized education and job creation. In 2008, he helped to create “Operation Safe Passage,” an initiative designed to protect students on the way to and from school. He supported the expansion of Jones College Prep. He led the effort to combat food deserts on the Near West and West Sides.

In a close decision, we endorse Bob Fioretti for President of the Cook County Board.

Fritz Kaegi.

County Assessor—Democratic Primary

As stated above, incumbent Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios has been accused of overvaluing homes in lower income areas in mostly minority communities while favoring wealthier homeowners, but that is not all. He has been the focus of investigations into allegations of ethics violations and political corruption concerning fundraising from companies and individuals to which his office does business (such as tax appeal lawyers), and hiring family members for government jobs.

Opposing Berrios on the ballot are Fritz Kaegi and Andrea Raila, although Raila’s status as a candidate is still in the courts as of this writing.

Kaegi is a financial manager at Columbia Wanger Asset Management. He vows never to take campaign contributions from those doing business with the Assessor’s Office, and will review all personnel in the office, keeping those who are qualified and dismissing those who are political cronies of Berrios. He intends to diversify the workforce, modernize the office to improve services for taxpayers, and increase transparency by obtaining and providing more data.

We strongly endorse Fritz Kaegi for Assessor.

Also endorsed by Gazette Chicago are the following candidates in contested races. (This publication does not endorse in unopposed races.)

County Treasurer—Democratic Primary, Maria Pappas

Congress, 3rd District—Democratic Primary, Marie Newman

Congress, 4th District—Democratic Primary, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia

Congress, 7th District—Democratic Primary, Danny K. Davis

Congress, 7th District—Republican Primary, Craig Cameron

State Representative, 4th District—Democratic Primary, Alyx Pattison

State Representative, 5th District—Democratic Primary,
       Lamont J. Robinson Jr.

County Board, 1st District—Democratic Primary, Richard R. Boykin

County Board, 2nd District—Democratic Primary, Paul J. Montes II

County Board, 3rd District—Democratic Primary, Bill Lowry

County Board, 7th District—Democratic Primary, Alma E. Anaya

County Board, 11th District—Republican Primary, Carl Segvich