Daniel Biss: Let's decide who government works for

This is one of a seies of essays produced in response to an invitation from the Daily Herald on the topic, "Why I Should Be Illinois' Next Governor." The two Republicans and seven Democrats who have announced bids to seek the state's top job all were invited to describe themselves and their core positions. Publication of the op-eds began with submission by incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner and will continue daily on the Opinion page. Democrat Tio Hardiman declined.

I'm running for governor to build a state that works for middle-class families like mine. I'm running because I believe we can fully fund our schools, expand access to healthcare, and create well-paying jobs when we build a tax system that makes the wealthiest pay their fair share. I'm running because billionaire businessmen in the White House and Governor's Mansion are attacking working families, and it's time for the rest of us to join together, in this election cycle and beyond.

I'm a middle-class father and state senator, and now a Democratic candidate for governor. Frankly, I didn't always want to run for office: I began my career teaching math at the University of Chicago, but when I saw our nation sprinting into war with Iraq in 2003, I put down my chalk and picked up a clipboard. I began organizing around progressive candidates and local issues, and I fell in love with the idea that when we unite around shared values, we can change our political system at its very core.

My experiences as a grassroots organizer inspired me to run for office for the first time and are why I believe in the importance of people-powered campaigns today. While in the Senate, I've passed more than 80 bills, including preventing insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions, expanding SNAP benefits for 40,000 families, and creating a retirement savings program to help over one million Illinois workers save for their futures, even when their employers won't.

During my time in the legislature and on the campaign trail, I've had the opportunity to meet with thousands of Illinoisans at town halls, coffee shops and college campuses. I've heard their concerns and their ideas - and I've noticed more similarities than you might think.

Everywhere I go, Illinoisans are frustrated with a rigged political system that promises too little and delivers even less. We're all tired of the uncertainty - of not knowing if or when we will pass a budget, fund our schools and pay down our bill backlog. And we're all hurt by a tax system that demands more and more from middle-class and working families.

We're facing many of the same challenges - and we share many of the same hopes, too. From college students to union workers to retirees, Illinoisans want a state that guarantees educational opportunities, affordable healthcare and childcare, well-paying jobs and a government committed to transparency and accountability.

This vision is achievable: when we demand that the wealthiest in our state pay their fair share, we can finally fund our key priorities and invest in our communities. That's why I've been fighting for a progressive income tax and a La Salle Street tax and to close corporate loopholes. I know we can achieve these common-sense reforms, and I know I won't be fighting alone.

While the Iraq War was my wake-up call, my realization that we can't wait for someone else to build the world we need, I see that same energy today. Across our state, Illinoisans are rising up in response to the Trump presidency and the chaos of the Rauner administration. We have a chance to come together and set up a state that works for rest of us.

So this election is about more than choosing our next governor - and our campaign is about more than winning an election. It's about inspiring a movement of people statewide to take our state back from the wealthy elite and political insiders. It's about deciding, once and for all, who our state works for. Does it work for the millionaires and billionaires or the rest of us? Does it work for corporations, or for regular people? And are we going to have an election, or an auction?

Democrat Daniel Biss, of Evanston, is Illinois state senator from the 9th District.

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