Daniel Biss explains misstep with first running mate pick

CHICAGO -- State Sen. Daniel Biss, a strong Democratic fundraiser, is trying his best to get attention as he works to be an alternative to the presumed Illinois gubernatorial frontrunner, J.B. Pritzker.

Sen. Biss is running with State Rep. Litesa Wallace of Rockford, but she was not his first choice. Chicago Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa was Biss’s first running mate, but Biss dropped Ramirez-Rosa after just six days over differences involving Israel.

Ramirez-Rosa backs the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for international pressure on Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank.  Ramirez-Rosa also backs the Democratic Socialists of America, which also endorses BDS. Biss, who is Jewish, strongly opposes BDS. But he said the men did talk about the issue before he announced Ramirez-Rosa as a running mate.

"He and I had a series of discussions before he joined the ticket and we had an understanding at that time, and that understanding has changed," Biss said. "That’s his right, obviously and I respect his right. But it was simply not going to work any longer."

It was a major misstep for a candidate who is trying to appeal to the left.

"It’s a campaign about Medicare for all, it’s a campaign about a $15 minimum wage, it’s a campaign about college affordability, it’s a campaign about tax fairness," Biss said.

During his tenure in Springfield, Biss has cast difficult votes, some at odds with progressives, including $1.6 billion in cuts as part of Medicaid reform, stripping some public employees of collective bargaining, increasing charter school funding and a subsidy for Exelon.

Biss said he supported the subsidies because the bill they were contained in was, "one of the most significant expansions of clean energy in the history of this state."

"Listen, during my time during the course of the legislature, we’ve had a series of difficult budgetary situations that have resulted in a lot of painful budget choices," Biss said.

As the campaign heads down the stretch, this team is hoping to catch fire, with Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford) making a unique pitch.

"I’m the average person. I think so many people are waiting to see a face that is like theirs, they are waiting to hear a story that is like theirs," Rep. Wallace said.

Rep. Wallace talks about her struggle 13 years ago when she was a single mother with a young son. Now, she is adding to her family, fostering an 11-year-old. She says she looks forward to discussing how government can help working moms.

Biss has proven to be a good fundraiser. During the second quarter of this year, he outraised rival Chris Kennedy. Only billionaire J.B. Pritzker brought in more campaign coin.