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Daniel Biss campaigns in La Grange

Lars Lonnroth, Assistant news editor

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On the night of June 11, the intricate stained-glass overlooking the pews at The First Congregational Church of La Grange were not witnessing any kind of church function. Instead, roughly 33 people gathered in those halls where Democratic state Senator Daniel Biss, 39, was attempting to sell the people of La Grange on his candidacy for governor of Illinois.

“Our party has focused a lot on how to stop Bruce Rauner—which is important—but we’ve not focused enough on what we can do to transform our state and lift people up across Illinois,” Biss said in an interview.

Admitting that the candidates for governor will have “platforms [that] are going to mostly be very similar,” Biss is positioning himself as a seasoned expert of passing progressive legislation inside the confines of the tricky world of Springfield politics.

Citing his 11-year-career in the statehouse promoting “what we need to do as a progressive movement to have a state that works for all of us,” the senator claims his “record of not just accomplishment but focusing on what we can do together” will “differentiate this campaign.”

Outlining his campaign’s goals—legalization of marijuana, childhood education, and the other progressive issues that are central to many of the gubernatorial campaigns—Biss took great lengths to push his support for one issue: tax reform.

During the event, Biss claimed that if the next governor does not get rid of Illinois’ flat tax, which requires that individual are taxed at the same rate no matter how large their income is, “that term would be a failure.”

While proponents argue that a flat tax is the fairest way to tax income, opponents like Biss claim that the flat tax is unfair to poor people of the state. Illinois is one of only a few states that have a flat tax.

 The crop of democratic candidates vying for the democratic nomination for governor are a part of a large, nation-wide surge in progressive candidates aiming to ride the growing animus towards President Donald Trump to state legislators and governor’s mansions across the nation.

 Biss also made clear that getting rid of Rauner would only do so much to relieve the burdens facing Illinois, emphasizing that it is also essential to use the progressive movements cultivated during the campaign to push politicians in Springfield to pass legislation past the election.

“What we need now is more than just to defeat a terrible governor, we need a political transformation in the state of Illinois,” Biss said. “We need a political force that is powerful enough not just to beat these billionaire but to also be a counterweight to the political machine that has ill-served the Democratic Party for so long, and the only way to do that is to build a movement of people.”

Businessman J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy are candidates using their wealth to display they could feasibly go head-to-head against Rauner—who has poured millions of his personal wealth into his campaign’s coffers.

Meanwhile Biss and Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar are both hoping to utilize grassroot campaigning to bring awareness of their campaigns without needing huge campaign war chests their opponents have.

“I think the most important thing to do to faceoff against Rauner is to have a vision for the state, an aspiration vision that people can get excited about and to be able to organize people into a movement,” Biss said in an interview. “I think that is what we need to select for and I think that will allow us to govern effectively and get reelected.”

The event was organized by the nonpartisan Action for a Better Tomorrow, which invites candidates to speak to their organization and aims to inform their members through access to political candidates. The organization has also had Pawar and Bob Daiber speak in the area.

At the event on June 11, those in attendance had a generally positive reception to Biss.

 Beth Augustine, of La Grange, donned a new Biss button that she picked up at the back of the room. Augustine had listened to every candidate in some form or another and felt best about Biss.

“If the election was tomorrow, I would [vote for] Daniel Biss,” Augustine said. “I think he is extremely intelligent. He understands Illinois politics, which I think is vital, but isn’t corrupted by them.”

Meanwhile, Edward Spire, of Morton Grove, trekked out to La Grange to hear Biss Sunday. Spire liked Biss, but thought it was too early to really say whom he wishes to support and wanted to get a better idea of the other candidates vying for the nomination.

“I’ve listened to him, and I’ve listened to J.B. [Pritzker] and I haven’t listened to any of the other candidates yet,” Spire said. “I think he’s painted a more compelling picture than I’ve heard from the other candidate I’ve listened to, but it remains to be seen who can bring people together.”

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Daniel Biss campaigns in La Grange