Daniel Biss loses democratic bid, falters to Pritzker’s wallet


Daniel Biss speaks to crowd of supporters and staffers in his election night party. (Yazmin Dominguez | The DePaulia)

Democratic candidate and Illinois state senator Daniel Biss delivered his concession speech to cheers and chants from supporters as well as campaign staffers and volunteers on the evening of March 20.

Since announcing his campaign for governor a year ago in March 2017, supporters of Biss and his running mate Litesa Wallace rallied in River North’s Old Crow Smokehouse for their election night party.

By 8:30 p.m. results came in with J.B. Pritzker taking the Democratic nominee of Illinois by a landslide of 49 percent (342, 967) of the votes. Daniel Biss fell second with 26.5 percent (202,386) of the votes.

“This was a hard result but I feel like in so many ways what we did was a success. We saw a broken system here in Illinois where big money and political machines have way too much power and left so many of us falling further and further behind and we knew the solution to that more than anyone policy was to fight for our democracy,” Biss said during his concession speech. “It was a fight about power, a fight to win back power for the rest of us in a world where so many of us felt like that power was missing for so long and that’s what this campaign was about. It was an antidote to that idea that we didn’t have power.”

The 9th District senator held a steady run against billionaire J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy, nephew of President John F. Kennedy. From the beginning of his campaign, Biss ran on a progressive platform labeling himself the candidate for the middle class.

In an effort to tackle criminalization reform he touted a “CannaBiss” campaign sign calling for pro-marijuana legalization. His policy priorities included increasing taxes on the wealthy and increasing funds for education and universal healthcare.

“A movement to take our state back from the money and the machine” is how Biss described his progressive campaign according to his website.

“If there’s anything this campaign has been about is, ‘Are we going to be fair or are we going to be obscenely unfair,’” said Chicago resident Julie Donalek. Donalek has been involved with the Biss campaign since October assuming the role of volunteer coordinator for the 46th ward. She and the rest of her volunteers ran a phone bank from the back of the Holiday Club calling Illinois residents as an attempt to persuade them to vote for Biss.

But, according to her husband, Peter Donalek, the results yielded the race to be obscenely unfair.

“Money is like speech. The more money you have the more you speak,” said Donalek. “If you don’t have that much money the other guy who has all the money gets to convince everyone to vote for them. It’s not a fair system.”

In an election that was being labeled as the “most expensive in Illinois history” by the Chicago Tribune, Biss raised a total of $6,677,766 with a total of cash on hand amounting to $5,180,775 by the day of the primaries, according to Ballotpedia. This compares to the total $70 million newly elected Democratic nominee J.B. Pritzker paid from his own wallet.

“Obviously, Pritzker was able to plug the airways with this message and voters respond to that so the election is kind of fixed by how much money you have,” said Donalek. “I don’t think that’s a democratic process.”

On the morning of the primary, Biss cast his own vote in his hometown of Evanston. According to the Chicago Tribune, less than 48 hours before election night Biss and Wallace held two other events on Chicago’s North Side in efforts to garner last minute votes. Biss traveled outside of the city to visit two churches in Rockford and held a“Get out the Vote” rally in the northwest suburb of Crystal Lake.

But, the last ditch efforts were not enough for Biss to clench the democratic nominee.

By 8 p.m. votes were being polled and gubernatorial election results were hard to miss.  Biss was coming in second with 27 percent of the votes to Democratic frontrunner J.B. Pritzker’s 44 percent with Chris Kennedy trailing last with 25 percent.

Supporter of Biss since his first run for state house, Becky Galler, was disappointed yet accepting of results.

“I’m a Democrat and I will support a Democratic candidate because I think that Bruce Rauner has destroyed our state,” said Galler. “Starting tomorrow I will support and work hard for the Democratic candidate for governor against Bruce Rauner. I’m very, very disappointed that Daniel is not that candidate.”