Governor (DEM)

Choose the candidates



  1. Elected offices held and civic involvement


    I’ve served in the Illinois Senate since 2013 and served one term in the Illinois House of Representatives from 2011 to 2012. I have served on the Evanston Environmental Board, as president of the Democratic Party of Evanston, on the board of the Indo-American Democratic organization, and as a member of the Temple Beth Israel’s social action committee. I originally got into politics as a community organizer, uniting my neighbors around our opposition to the Iraq War, and have joined phone-banking and canvassing efforts for political campaigns and important local issues ever since.


    Elected Offices Held: Madison County Regional Superintendent of Schools (2007-present), Madison County Board member (2002-07), Marine Township supervisor (2001-present), Trustee—Village of Marine (1997-2001)

    Civic Involvement:

    • Supporter of Venice Head Start Program
    • Marine Lion's Club Member
    • Sponsor for Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville "Arts & Issues Series"
    • Developer of 20th Century Madison County History Project
    • Member of Southwestern Leadership Council
    • District Director of Cahokia Mounds Boy Scouts--Lewis & Clark Council
    • Vice President of Learning for Life--St. Louis Boy Scouts Council
    • Developer of Give 30 Mentoring Program (visit
    • Supporter of Alton NAACP--Back-to-School Drive & Christmas Shopping program
    • Supporter of Alton Concerned Citizens
    • Supporter of Alton 100 Black Men Organization
    • Village of Marine Parade Coordinator

    I've seen Illinois from many different vantage points, and I see potential everywhere throughout our State. The civic activities I have filled throughout my 30-year career in Illinois include many different roles. Within the last ten years, I have served as:

    • A member of the City of Chicago’s Green Ribbon Committee;
    • Co-Chair of the Cook County Sustainability Advisory Council;
    • Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the University of Illinois; and,
    • Member of the Executive Committee and Chair of the Finance Committee for the Chicago Community Trust;
    • Former Trustee, Catholic Theological Union;
    • Current Trustee, Marine Biological Laboratories;
    • Member, Global Advisory Board at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management Member of the Legal Services Council’s Leaders Council; and
    • My wife Sheila and I founded and currently run Top Box Foods, a nonprofit that operates out of local community centers to provide low-cost, high-quality groceries to food deserts in and around the Chicago area.

    I’ve spent the past ten years fighting for progressive Democratic values and getting big things done for Illinois families and communities in both the public and private sectors. I’ve been a leading national advocate for early childhood education, including organizing the White House Summit on Early Childhood Education for President Obama in 2014. I’ve worked to provide thousands of children across Illinois and the nation quality childcare and preschool. I helped expand federal school breakfast grants in Illinois so that over 200,000 more children in low-income school districts won’t start their day hungry.

    I’ve been engaged in fighting injustice in Illinois. After 10 years of working with dedicated Holocaust survivors and leading the effort, I was proud to open the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in 2009. The Holocaust Museum teaches more than 60,000 Illinois students and teachers each year to fight bigotry, hatred, and intolerance. I also endowed the Center on Wrongful Convictions and the Child and Family Justice Center in their critical work to reform our criminal justice system and fight for those who have experienced a miscarriage of justice.

    I have played a leadership role in transforming the Chicago region into a leading technology start-up hub. It is now considered one of the top ten in the world! I chaired ChicagoNEXT, the Technology and Entrepreneurship Committee for the City of Chicago, and I launched the Chicago Venture Summit. I founded 1871, a non-profit startup business incubator, which has helped create over 7,000 new jobs in Illinois.

  2. 1. How will you, as governor, work for transparent, accountable, efficient government?


    I am running for governor to build a state that works for middle-class families like mine—and that requires transparency, accountability, and efficiency. During my time in the legislature, I’ve learned that the best ideas for improving government come from dedicated public servants, and from the constituents who rely on government services and navigate government programs. As governor, I’ll work closely with public employees and Illinoisans across the state to learn about successes and shortcomings, best practices that we can replicate at the state level, and ideas for delivering better services at lower costs.

    As a community organizer and progressive state legislator, I’ve spent the past decade working with public servants and middle-class and working families to achieve these goals. I’ve passed legislation to make more information available to the public, such as employment and wage data and research at public colleges and universities, and worked to override Rauner’s veto of the Debt Transparency Act. I’ve fought to set up our government to be more responsive to voters, such as passing a small-donor matching program out of the Senate. And I’ve worked to improve efficiency, such as by allowing units of local government to consolidate and dissolve themselves in alignment with constituents’ preferences.


    I will publish a weekly calendar of events. This calendar will be inclusive of proposed legislation and bills that will be signed. All of the gubernatorial appointees will be instructed to be open and transparent in state affairs.


    In the fall of 2017, I gave a speech on government reform where I outlined solutions that I believe we need to implement to fix our government.

    The challenge to the entire notion of democracy in our country is only getting more serious. A small group of government suppliers, regulated industries, and billionaire families have combined to support candidates who in turn, as elected officials, give them government contracts, lower taxes, or looser regulations. It’s crony capitalism on a massive scale, beyond anything this country has ever experienced. In the last presidential primary season, 130 families gave more money to Republican candidates than the rest of the donors in the entire United States combined. A small group has realized that, if they can control the government, then they can reap massive financial benefits at the expense of everyone else. In its modern form, the strategy relies on campaign funding provided by crony capitalists, which is used to recruit candidates, ensuring these candidates of their electability, despite the occasional lack of personal qualifications.

    In the absence of federal action to reverse course on Citizens United, we need guardrails in place at the state level to limit the influence of corrupt interest playing a role in our political system, which is why I’ve laid out a government reform agenda. My agenda includes banning political parties from making contributions to any candidate during a primary election and the creation of a small-dollar donor matching system in Illinois that allows campaigns to raise a majority of their funds from small dollar donors.


    The people of Illinois deserve a government that works for them. As governor, I will set a tone of transparency and accountability across all agencies. My administration will respect the authority and role of inspectors general, and we will comply with the Freedom of Information Act, Open Meetings Act, and all rules governing conflicts of interest to make sure we are transparent and accountable to the people.

    In addition to good faith compliance with existing law, I also support additional measures I believe will create a more transparent, accountable, and efficient government. First, I support using an independent commission to draw legislative maps so that races are more competitive and voters actually have choices to make in their local elections. I also would sign a bill proposing term limits for legislative leaders. Finally, we must overturn Citizens United at the federal level, and we need comprehensive campaign finance reform in Illinois.

  3. 2. How will you improve public access to information in the governor’s office and across all executive agencies? What specifically will you implement or propose?


    I’m proud of my record fighting for public access to information, and will continue working to expand and protect access as governor. I was the first candidate for governor to sign Chi Hack Night’s Open Data Pledge, which includes appointing a data leadership team, promoting the open sharing of data between county and municipal governments, upholding the Open Operating Standards Act and Freedom of Information Act, securing private data, reducing barriers to accessing public data, keeping public data up to date, and requiring the publication of sources of open data.

    During my time in the legislature, I’ve passed several bills to improve public access to information. For example, I passed HB 5444 in 2012 to make the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages data available for the public and in 2013, I passed SB 1900 to require state universities to create task forces to ensure that the public can access taxpayer funded research. As governor, I will build on these reforms by implementing the policies described in the Open Data Pledge and by working with issue experts, advocacy groups, and governments of other states to learn about best practices and further improve public access.


    The governor's press secretary will provide scheduled briefings on all state initiatives and issues. Likewise, the governor's office will be open to public comment on issues through an online comment site.


    I think I have demonstrated in my campaign my commitment to making government information more public. I researched and created an excel deck of property tax data from different communities and discovered the inequity in that system. Our tech talent in Illinois is needed to translate that information into how we can better expose these inequalities in government in a digestible, impactful way, such as The Inequity Index my campaign is building to show an overlay of property tax, school, and crime data in Cook County and beyond. I think we will need to turn to our tech community in Illinois for help in making our government more transparent. Folks like the Chicago Leadership Alliance have started to do this on their own for the City of Chicago, and we should look to them and others to help us develop new policies.


    I believe that when it comes to government accountability, sunshine is the best disinfectant. It’s vital that our branches of government adhere to existing transparency and accountability measures like the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act and respect the authority of inspectors general. Illinois has one of the best FOIA laws in the country, and we must make sure that continues to be the case. As governor, I will oppose efforts to weaken our FOIA and OMA rules and will ensure my administration works in good faith to improve public access to information across all executive agencies. I’ll also work in good faith with the public and the media to make sure they have timely access to public information in the format most useful to them.

    We currently have a transparency-averse governor who improperly redacts information, leaves FOIA requests unanswered, or misses the deadlines for these requests entirely. In September 2015, the Attorney General issued a binding opinion finding that Bruce Rauner improperly redacted information pursuant to a FOIA request. He was ordered to turn over his appointment calendar in response to a FOIA from the Illinois Times newspaper. In 2017, Politico Illinois reported that the governor ignored formal FOIA requests regarding the abrupt departure of his former Chief General Council Dennis Murashko, and just last week, a former Rauner staffer sued the administration for improperly ignoring her FOIA requests.

    The executive branch must comply with FOIA. It is not optional. As governor, I will ensure FOIA and other transparency and accountability measures are adhered to.

    I will also work to expand open data practices. I’m proud of the work I did to build 1871 and make Illinois one of the top technology hubs in the world. I helped create more than 7,000 jobs in Illinois, supported hundreds of new small businesses, and made Illinois a site of innovation. I believe one of the ways we can build on that success and solve some of the challenges our state faces is through open data. Making government data more transparent and open to the public will be a priority in my administration. It will make our state government more efficient, improve the way we make important policy decisions in areas like energy and transportation planning, and encourage innovative problem solving. I’ve spent my life bringing people together and in my career have used data and technology to solve big problems. That’s exactly what I’ll do as governor.

  4. 3. Illinois has the most units of local government in the nation -- what initiatives/policies would you advance to consolidate and streamline government?


    I believe that giving local units of government the ability to consolidate with one another and even eliminate themselves entirely is an important way to streamline government services and empower local officials to decide how to best support their residents. In 2014, I passed legislation allowing some units of local government to consolidate, and was supportive when the City of Evanston dissolved Evanston Township after a referendum of Evanston voters. This change cut overall costs, eliminated confusion associated with duplicative services, and gave Evanston voters more power over how their government is run. I will continue to support legislation empowering local governments to streamline services by consolidating and eliminating units of local government.


    I support state funded incentives for school district consolidation. I also support the Streamlining Task Force proposal laid out in the Quinn administration.


    I believe we have seen a successful example of government consolidation in DuPage County under the bipartisan leadership. They worked to pass a bill that allowed local county government to take consolidation into their own hands.

    This way local governments can work to eliminate costly duplicative services while maintaining local control through referendums, so that a solution that is good for DuPage doesn’t get uniformly applied across the state to another county like Perry where it may not work as well.

    Governor Rauner signed SB 3 in August of 2017, and I think that we need to wait to see how well this is implemented before we add new policies to this plan. I would make it a priority to work with each County and to set up regional county commissions to look for ways in which counties can consolidate services.

    I would task our local regional universities with doing regional studies about the units of local government and how we can consolidate them. This way we can use the power of our universities and then present each county in their respective regions with a plan to save valuable tax dollars through consolidation.


    Illinois has the most units of local government in the country. As someone who has run businesses, I think that’s inefficient. I believe that efforts to consolidate should be locally driven, involve local stakeholders and community members, and not harm those who work and live in the area.

  5. 4. Illinois’ pension crisis is the worst in the nation. In addition, local governments are saddled with rising pension obligations from local fire and police pension funds. What policies would you put forth to address Illinois’ pension crises?


    I believe that we must deliver on the promises we’ve made to Illinois workers and retirees who are expecting their pension payments. It’s immoral—and illegal—to violate this commitment. Our pension debt is a result of our failure, year after year, to pay the actuarially-required amount into the system. Amidst competing budgetary priorities, we’ve continued to let this crisis grow rather than take responsibility.

    As governor, my first step to solving the pension crisis would be to pay the actuarially required amount every year. But we can’t rely on good intentions alone: if we look at Illinois’ various pension systems to see which ones have received their payments, it’s clear that binding mechanisms are the most effective way to guarantee funding. That’s why I would support a binding mechanism at the state level to require—rather than hope—that we pay into the system in full each year.

    We must support these payments through progressive, sustainable revenue sources. As a state senator, I introduced a constitutional amendment to allow for a progressive income tax, sponsored legislation to close the carried interest loophole, and co-sponsored legislation to tax financial transactions. I’ve continued to advocate for these policies on the campaign trail as the only gubernatorial candidate to present all three of these progressive revenue sources, and will fight for them as governor to sustain our pension system and other budget priorities.

    Even with additional revenue, we must look for ways to make our pension system more efficient, less costly, and less corrupt. While Illinois maintains hundreds of pension systems, most other states have far fewer, or even a single system. By consolidating systems in Illinois, we could improve oversight and achieve greater returns on investment through pooled resources without reducing the pension payouts we owe to retired workers.


    We must pass a progressive income tax to gain revenue needed to address the unfunded pension liability. We must also allow pension recipients to invest into the pension system if they choose to preserve it.


    Workers never skipped a payment into our pension system—our elected officials did. Our inability to keep up with our payments is what has resulted in our pension crisis. As Governor, I would work immediately to address our pension debt by infusing upfront funding into the system through my proposed tax reforms and refinancing our debt at better rates. By doing so, we can then lower and extend our repayment ramp so that we never skip a payment again. Beyond these changes, any pension reforms I would seek would be done in partnership with our labor unions. I believe our skilled labor force is one of Illinois’ greatest competitive advantages. We cannot and should not fix our fiscal crisis on the back of our middle class workers.

    The state’s pension funds have made a lot of money for Wall Street and cost taxpayers too much. New laws and new leadership need to:

    • Make it harder for the state to skip payments into its pension systems.
    • Create automatic enrollment for defined-contribution retirement systems.
    • Collect all investment manager fees into one database for review and comparison by all systems on an annual basis.

    Furthermore, we need to maximize the state’s role as an investor by:

    • Changing statutory requirements to invest pension dollars in Illinois-based firms and funds. By amplifying the Office of the Treasurer’s Illinois Growth and Innovation Fund, an Illinois-focused $220 million venture and private equity funds, the state can create thousands of additional jobs.
    • Incentivizing firms and funds owned by Minorities, Women, Veterans, and Persons with a Disability (MWVD) that bid on investment contracts so that our dollars are used to grow jobs and companies in our state, not on Wall Street.

    There are several plans that have been proposed to address our ongoing pension challenges. The most sensible would bump up our current payments while leveling out the amortization schedule, allowing future state budgeting to be more manageable. We shouldn’t focus on assigning blame – there’s a lot to go around for both political parties and their leaders for decades. But failing to act is not an option. We have to step up and do what’s right for the future of our state budget and our retirees.

  6. 5. Illinois went two years without a budget. What will you propose, legislatively, to improve the budgeting process? For instance, do you support improved reporting on tax collections and fund transfers, multi-year forecasting and planning, rainy day funds, ending continuing appropriations that allowed the state to spend without any budgetary controls?


    Bruce Rauner’s budget impasse had devastating and indefensible effects on middle-class and working families, from jeopardizing school funding to halting infrastructure projects to shuttering social services. Even after overriding Rauner’s veto to pass a budget this summer, our communities are still reeling—and if one thing is clear, it’s that we can’t afford another crisis.

    I believe the most important improvement to the budgeting process is a governor who fulfills his constitutional duty to propose a balanced budget. To balance the budget without slashing vital programs and services, we must raise revenue through a progressive income tax and financial transaction tax and by closing corporate tax loopholes. I’ve fought for these policies in the legislature, and will continue to advance them as governor. I supported overriding Bruce Rauner’s veto of the Debt Transparency Act and will continue to expand openness in government finance, such as by improving reporting on tax collections and fund transfers and by conducting nonpartisan revenue estimates and fiscal forecasting.


    I believe the state should provide the general public with a clean and open report on revenue and expenditures each fiscal year. I recommend quarterly revenue reports for tax collection of income and sales tax in addition to expenditure reports. I also believe the governor needs to submit a manageable budget prior to approving appropriations. In addition, multi-year forecasting and planning must become part of the governor's financial planning to rid the state of its debt and current backlog of unpaid bills.


    For the last four years, we have lived under constant uncertainty about the state’s budget. That must end. We must enact real reform and make difficult decisions to get our finances under control. We can no longer have a permanent cycle of budget crisis, not pay our bills, or put off reasonable, fair tax reform.

    There is no more crippling effort for business in Illinois than the stain of permanent fiscal disaster.

    I would support improved reporting on tax collections, fund transfers, multi-year forecasting and planning, and rainy day funds. All of these were common practices for me when I ran the Merchandise Mart.

    While continuing appropriations are a crutch to allow a budget crisis to continue, there are a lot of people in Illinois who would be hurt if we did away with continuing appropriations, not to mention the fact that many were court ordered.

    Before committing to ending continuing resolutions we would need to ensure that we are not hurting the most vulnerable citizens in Illinois.


    It’s the constitutional obligation of the governor to propose a balanced budget to the legislature. In three years, Bruce Rauner hasn’t met that obligation even once. To address the state’s fiscal challenges, I will propose a forward-thinking balanced budget that prioritizes job creation, expanded healthcare coverage, and quality, equitable, public education. I will work with the legislature and stakeholders to get it passed. If I receive an unbalanced budget from the legislature as governor, I will bring legislators to the table so we can make sure we’re prioritizing jobs, education, and healthcare. Unlike Bruce Rauner, I won’t give up before it’s done and claim “I’m not in charge.”

    As governor, I will not shirk my constitutional obligation to propose a balanced budget every year as our current governor has. In addition to the yearly budgeting requirement, we need to engage in multi-year budget forecasting with a focus on rebuilding our higher education and social service infrastructure that was decimated during the two-year budget crisis. By taking a multi-year approach to budgeting, we can project changes in economic growth and revenue that will help us plan our investments more thoughtfully.

    To pay for important investments, reduce the tax load carried by low- and middle-income people, and reduce our reliance on local property taxes to fund education, I will reform our tax system to make it less regressive. I have proposed amending the constitution to create a progressive income tax for Illinois so we can invest in moving Illinois forward while lowering regressive property taxes and protecting the middle class from further tax increases.

  7. 6. What campaign finance and legislative reforms would you propose to improve people’s trust in government and politics? What would you propose to empower more people to successfully seek office?


    My “Rewriting the Rules” plan proposes six reforms to restore Illinoisans’ faith in government and politics. Campaign finance reform is a major part of this plan: I believe big money has a corrupting influence in politics, making it difficult for middle-class and working people to run for office and encouraging legislators to make decisions with an eye towards fundraising for the next election cycle. I passed a small donor matching bill out of the Senate that would give candidates the opportunity to receive public financing in exchange for accepting limits on donations and meeting thresholds of support. This legislation would empower Illinoisans to run for office on their ideas, not their bank accounts.

    “Rewriting the Rules” also includes a proposal to expand ballot access. Right now, strict rules for getting on the ballot serve to protect establishment candidates and prevent ordinary people from running. By streamlining the process by which new political parties and independent candidates can get on the ballot, and by relaxing unnecessarily complex technical rules that establishment candidates use to kick challengers off the ballot, we can encourage more people to run for office.

    I support an end to partisan mapmaking through a constitutional amendment creating an independent redistricting commission to create fair and competitive legislative districts that reflect diverse communities. “Rewriting the Rules” will also implement ranked-choice voting to give voters more opportunities to select independent and third party candidates who share their values and ensure that the candidate who wins is the candidate with the most support. Lastly, to encourage the flow of new ideas and prevent the consolidation of power by machine politicians, I would enact term limits for the Senate President, Speaker of the House, and minority party leaders.


    I believe these should be reasonable expenditure caps placed on all statewide and legislative races. I also support term limits and for statewide offices and leadership in the General Assembly.


    To restore government integrity, we need to introduce real campaign finance reform so we end the financial arms race in politics that allows only the super-rich to effectively compete. We need to create a small-dollar donor matching program in Illinois that allows campaigns to raise a majority of their funds from small, in-district donors to compete with the campaigns financed by special interests, crony capitalist donors, and suppliers.

    This is an area where Commissioner Chuy Garcia is leading. He has filed an ordinance to establish a small-donors contributions system in Cook County for all elected officials. The state needs this same leadership. We need to bar corporations with state contracts from making any political contributions to any campaigns, political parties, or covering independent expenditures. We need to require full and immediate disclosure from lobbyists and political action committees, and we need much broader financial disclosure for people running for office. We need to set expectations clearly around what financial data and relationships should be disclosed. We should subject elected officials to the same standards that they establish for their staff in the legislative branch or for the executive leadership of the executive branch. For instance, we need to put a year-long ban on the revolving door that allows elected officials to go into private practice and lobby that same office, just like their employees are subject to.

    The system needs significant leverage to work, but if it does we will see new people start to run for office. A six-to-one match has worked well elsewhere. In New York City, it’s helped free elected officials to bring grassroots candidates into politics, including a Legal Aid Society lawyer, the director of the New York State Tenant and Neighbors Coalition, and an NYPD detective because they’re not as afraid of having to go up against institutional dollars.


    First, I support using an independent commission to draw legislative maps so that races are more competitive and voters actually have choices to make in their local elections. I would also sign a bill proposing term limits for legislative leaders. Finally, we must overturn Citizens United at the federal level, and we need comprehensive campaign finance reform in Illinois.

  8. 7. How will you improve government accountability by expanding/improving the power of inspectors general across the state? What specifically would you propose?


    For years, our state has failed to recognize the importance of the role of inspector general. From failing to appoint a legislative inspector general for three years to burdensome red tape that prevents inspectors general from conducting timely, effective investigations, it’s clear we must implement reforms. For example, inspectors general should operate independently of those they oversee, investigations should not require approval to proceed, and subpoena powers should rest with inspectors general. Lastly, we must fully fund inspectors general to ensure they have the resources necessary to perform their duties.


    Government accountability is a big problem in Illinois. We just witnessed this at the Quincy Veteran's Home. As governor, I will direct my inspectors general to be responsive to findings, and be accountable to citizens of Illinois. Inspectors should also remain impartial to law makers and elected officials.


    I would protect OIGs from budget cuts, sending a strong message that our administration is committed to protecting the public against waste, fraud, malfeasance, corruption and incompetence.

    In addition, our administration believes that Inspectors General across the state must have full, unfettered access to relevant files and information in order to be effectively empowered. I support granting statutory power for inspector generals to be able to obtain these materials for investigative purposes.

    In addition, we believe that Inspectors General must have power to subpoena witnesses and to compel the production of materials relevant to an investigation. I also believe that IGs must be able to fully utilize the power to initiate their own investigations.

    Our administration would push for legislation that establishes an inspector general's office at all levels of city government, statewide. This is essential to ensure that municipalities across the state operate with the highest levels of integrity and effectiveness.


    Inspectors general play a critical role in making sure public dollars are spent to benefit the public. They are an independent, objective third party tasked with identifying and calling out waste, fraud, and abuse.

    As governor, I will advocate to fill vacant inspector general positions and will make sure they are fully staffed and funded so that they are able to perform their duties as outlined in their statutory authority.