Candidates tell of their picks for second fiddle
Running mates make it a team, and several Democrats running for governor next year have now picked their partners, with Chris Kennedy of Kenilworth naming Ra Joy as of last week.
Joy, 44, has worked as a senior aide to U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Evanston; as executive director of Arts Alliance Illinois; and until last week, as executive director of CHANGE Illinois.
The name stands for Coalition for Honest and New Government Ethics, and the group backed the new automatic voter registration law and has sought to de-politicize the drawing of legislative district maps.
Sadly, Joy, an Evanston native now of Chicago, also shares with Kennedy an intimate knowledge of the impact of gun violence. Kennedy's father, Robert F. Kennedy, and uncle, President John F. Kennedy, were both assassinated.
Joy's 23-year-old son, Xavier, was working with disadvantaged students as part of AmeriCorps in Chicago when he was shot to death near the University of Chicago campus during an apparent attempt to steal his cellphone.
Kennedy said last week Joy had been at the top of his list for running mates before the death of Xavier in June, but he hesitated to immediately ask Joy to join the campaign.
"I didn't want to rob him of an opportunity to ... be with his family," Kennedy said.
Kennedy said by August, he got indications that Joy was ready to take on issues publicly, and "it all worked out."
Joy said after his family's difficult summer, he is excited to be part of the Kennedy team, and wants to fight "a system where a very small handful of political insiders wields disproportionate power.
"This top-down, Game of Thrones, winner-take-all approach to governing created real pain for real people all across the state," he said.
Asked if he's talking about both parties, he said, "the status quo has failed us miserably, and there's enough blame to go around."
Jak Tichenor, interim director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, said that in seeking running mates, "The idea is to pick someone who can help balance your ticket, either geographically or philosophically. ... Gender and diversity are also pluses."
Joy, Tichenor said, is well-known in "good government circles" in Chicago and the arts community statewide.
Tichenor said state Rep. Juliana Stratton, D-Chicago, and running mate to Chicagoan J.B. Pritzker, is a "fresh face" in the Legislature and also became well-known in Chicago last year by defeating former Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, in a primary, after Dunkin made or missed votes that led to allies of GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner backing him.
Another governor candidate, Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar, picked Cairo Mayor Tyrone Coleman. Tichenor said poor folks in Cairo face the same issues as Chicago's poor, helping Pawar's pro-opportunity theme.
State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, picked Rep. Litesa Wallace of Rockford, but only after initially picking Chicago Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa. Biss dropped Ramirez-Rosa from the ticket over the alderman's views on Israel. Tichenor called Wallace "an excellent choice" who "probably should have been the first choice."
Among other candidates, Tio Hardiman of Calumet City, who won 30 counties in his 2014 Democratic primary against then-Gov. Pat Quinn, named Patricia Avery, former Champaign County Board chairwoman, as his running mate. Besides their qualifications, Hardiman said, he and Avery would make history by being the first African-American governor and lieutenant governor.
Kennedy told me that members of Pritzker's "enormous" campaign team have been "working the refs," in this case, reporters and columnists.
"I think they've concluded they can't beat me in the primary, and so they want to try to get me to drop out, so they spread rumors that I'm about to drop out," Kennedy said.
"That sort of thing doesn't work with me," Kennedy added. "I'm the smallest of seven brothers. ... They'll have to swing a lot harder to get me out."
Responded Pritzker spokeswoman Galia Slayen: "Our campaign is focused on building a professional operation that can go toe-to-toe with Bruce Rauner and hold him accountable every day for the damage he has done to Illinois. Instead of complaining about press to the press, Chris Kennedy's time would be better spent showing voters why he's the best candidate to beat Bruce Rauner."
It's a Snap
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is now Snapchatting.
His office announced last week that Springfield resident Durbin, the Senate Democratic whip, launched a Snapchat account last week, with the code "dickdurbin" for users of the service (which provides messages that disappear over time).
"Senator Durbin signed up for Snapchat as another way to connect with Illinoisans — particularly young people," said spokeswoman Saloni Sharma. "Snapchat is where the young people are, and he wants to engage them on the issues important to them such as passing the Dream Act, holding predatory for-profit [colleges] accountable, college affordability, etc."
His first use of the vehicle was to introduce, on video, two people brought to the country illegally as children – "dreamers" – who are now medical students.
The "snaps" remain for 24 hours, Sharma said, and Durbin will "try to post them as often as he can to keep his constituents up to date."