Today, I am ending my campaign for Governor. Briefly, I want to explain why: we simply don’t have the money to meaningfully scale this campaign statewide. Without more resources, the only choices for expanding the campaign to a scope that could earn the nomination were to take on more personal debt or to cut staff. I have a young family, and we decided not to take on more personal debt right now. As to cutting staff, I simply refuse. We raised $828k from 2,526 donors; that is amazing. But as you know, the race for Illinois governor will set a record as the costliest race in American history. For democracy’s sake, I hope we see this as a troubling trend. My donors did the best they could, I’m the one who came up short, but I am not ashamed. Just know that while we didn’t have the most money, we have the volunteers (3,200), the signatures (10,000), and the right message. I’m sorry for the people who have stood with me that I don’t have the extraordinary wealth or extraordinarily wealthy connections to make up the difference.
We’ve all heard Winston Churchill’s famous line, “never give in, never, never, never, never.” Less often quoted is the rest of the sentence: “except to convictions of honour and good sense.” I think both suggest that this is the right time for this campaign to come to an end. I wish there was a sensible path forward, but we have always been playing a long game, and this is more of a beginning than an end. At this time, I will not be endorsing a candidate. That said, I urge you to get to know the other Democratic candidates. They are good people, and any one of them will make a fine governor.
Today, I am launching One Illinois, a political action committee to organize young people around progressive issues and fight the false and bigoted divides around race, class, and geography. We all want to see progressive change and policies, but to achieve our goals we must take on the politics that are used to keep communities fighting one another over scraps. I hope that you will join me in this new effort. More on this in the coming weeks.
We all want to see progressive change, but we must organize and attack the false divides around race, class, and geography. If we don’t, we won’t realize the changes we all seek.
Enough about the primary campaign’s end, now I want to talk about a beginning. I began my public service career with, quite frankly, a pipe dream. I decided to knock on every door in the 47th Ward to listen to the ideas of people who had lived there for years, in some cases, more years than I’ve been alive. My backup plan if I lost — and I was almost certainly going to lose — was to join the military. My chances of winning were roughly somewhere between zero and the Cubs winning the World Series. But as we know, these things can happen. My experience in city council convinced me that, as intransigent as politics can be, a normal guy with authentic passion can make a difference. One of the blessings of getting into politics as a no-name with no affiliation was that I didn’t have to play a character. I got to be myself from the very start. And that was the same for this race. I knew that speaking about my own progressive ideas and policies was a risk. When billionaires who own football teams are so afraid of public opprobrium that they say nothing while national politicians vilify their employees for unobtrusively exercising their rights, believe me, I realize that condemning the War on Drugs as a war on black and brown families is going to raise some hackles. But I got into public service speaking my mind when nobody cared what I had to say, and by now all I know how to do is be myself.
The reason I got into this race, honestly, is that I was afraid. Afraid of the society my daughter might inherit if the American ship stays the current course. She’s only one-and-a-half, but America is not a small ship. It is a giant tanker, the kind you need to start steering miles out from shore if you want to dock without crashing. We are not on a safe course right now, and we know it. If from nothing else, that should be obvious when nuclear diplomacy occurs on Twitter. (Threatening nuclear annihilation on Twitter really seems like it should be a violation of the terms of service.) And if we don’t address inequality across race, class, and geography, I believe we are headed to a very scary place. Bruce Rauner and Donald Trump are targeting communities and turning them into ‘the other.’ We have seen before the brand of fear mongering that Bruce Rauner and Donald Trump wield to pit people against their fellow citizens, to divide us by geography, or race, or class, or absolutely any other difference that can be wielded for political expedience. It never ends well.
One of my goals was to force a conversation on progressive values and shine a light on how race, class, and geography are used to drive a wedge between communities and prevent progressive change. That’s why I declared for the race first, so that I could plant the conversation firmly in progressive ideas. We hit the road with our message – a message that included progressive income tax, mass commutations of low-level nonviolent drug offenses, calling out the War on Drugs for the racist failure that it was, universal childcare, and single-payer healthcare. We also listened, a tactic in too-short supply among public officials. Today, I am so tremendously proud and so deeply heartened to see the other campaigns talking about race and class and geography. As the first entrants to the race, I believe we pushed the public discourse to the left, toward a more progressive Illinois. I may have come up short, but together, we made progress. I urge all candidates to continue those vital discussions in the fight against the plainly bigoted agendas prosecuted by the chief executives of both our state and our nation.
While fear got me into this race, as I leave it, it is the shared humanity I experienced on the trail that I’ll take with me. Beyond giving me hope, it literally makes my skin tingle when I remember the love and compassion people expressed, often people in desperate circumstances who were worrying about everyone but themselves. A moment that I can’t wait to tell my daughter about, when she’s old enough to understand, occurred at our campaign stop for a parade in Eldorado. My running mate, Cairo Mayor Tyrone Coleman, was traversing southern and central Illinois as part of our Don’t Close Our Communities Tour, and he was anxious about this visit. Whereas Cairo was the final stop on the Underground Railroad, Eldorado was once a “sundown town.” That is, in the 1960s people of color were required to leave by sundown. As a pastor, a man who came of age during the Civil Rights Movement, and founder of a southern Illinois chapter of the NAACP, Mayor Coleman knew that history well. As he and his wife, Mary, marched in the parade, a woman stopped them and shared how decades of disinvestment from Cairo reminded her of the disinvestment from Saline County and Eldorado. Specifically, she recounted how the decline of jobs ushered in the opioid crisis. Then she said: “We all want the same thing. We’re neighbors.” A town that black people once fled to and one they once fled from, but today they are neighbors in search of the same things.
Memories like that will continue to fuel me.
As will memories of the devotion of my incredible team. Sam, Will, Tom, Kayley, Charissa, Lindsay, Heather, Spencer, John, Maggie, Mica, Zach, Katie, EJ, Maria, Jordan, Morgan, Mary, Anjali, Jenn, Steve, David, Leslie, Stacy, Brian, Kyle, and Collin. Thank you. You are family to me and Charna. We did something amazing. We will be forever grateful for the time and energy you put into this campaign, and we hope you know we will always have your backs, personally and professionally.
To our volunteers, it has been the honor of my life. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are the most talented and hardworking people I ever had the pleasure to fight alongside. Your commitment, your energy, and your steadfast support kept me going. I hope you will stick with me because this is just the beginning.
To Mayor Coleman, thank you. Mrs. Coleman, thank you. Charna and I are so honored to call you our friends. Cairo captured a piece of my heart, and I look forward to working together to put a spotlight on Cairo and communities all over the state as they fight for investment. I hope to join you and your community as you fight for affordable housing, the port authority, and jobs. I urge every campaign for governor to meet Mayor Coleman and his constituents. Cairo deserves all of our attention.
Finally, I want to thank my wife, Charna. Our daughter Sigalit was 10 months old when I got into this race. I’ve missed so much, and Charna took everything upon herself so that I could run. She has sacrificed over the last eight years to support me. I am looking forward to sacrificing for her and what she wants. (Imagine that, a gubernatorial campaign wasn’t a new mother’s first choice!)
I wanted to be your nominee for governor. I gave it everything I had. But I don’t have the resources to continue in a manner that I think would both be fair to the people who work with me and would set us up to win, and I require both. But I feel the same way about the inspiration I’ve acquired to make positive change as the Greek philosopher Plutarch did about education: It is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
I will keep organizing around the principle that we are stronger together and that we must defeat the politics of divide-and-rule. For you. For us. For my daughter. After all, we all want the same thing. After all, we are neighbors.