The wealthy and well-connected have built a political system that keeps them in charge by pushing the rest of us out. With campaign finance rules that prevent middle-class and working people from running for office, gerrymandered district maps that quiet our voices, and unreasonably restrictive rules to get on the ballot, it’s time to take a step back and ask where we went wrong. It’s time to ask whether we want to hold elections, or auctions.
I’m a middle-class father, community organizer, and Democratic state senator—and a grassroots candidate for governor in what is expected to be the most expensive statewide election in United States history. One of my opponents, billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker, is spending $120,000 of his own money in this race every day. That’s more than my wife and I make in a year. My other opponent, millionaire businessman Chris Kennedy, has spent $500,000 of his own money so far. That’s more than our house is worth.
But it’s much larger than me, and larger than this election cycle—across our state and country, our broken political system means that when we try to elect middle-class and working people and pass policies that support our families, we’re behind before we even get started. And if we keep playing this rigged game, we’re going to keep losing.
That’s why I announced “Rewriting the Rules,” a six-point plan to rebuild our government from the bottom up. Party insiders will tell us it's not possible, and that we should leave the rule-making to them. They want us to believe that their way is the only way — but we know that's not true.
We can make it easier for middle-class and working people to run for office based on their ideas, not their bank accounts, by implementing a system of public financing that matches small donations. We can renounce unnecessarily complex ballot access rules designed by party insiders to keep the rest of us out before the race even starts.
We can protect the voting rights and representation of diverse communities in the legislature by creating a statewide independent redistricting commission to draw fair maps. We can implement ranked-choice voting to allow Illinoisans to arrange preferences beyond their first choices, ensuring that the candidate who wins is the candidate with the most overall support.
We can bring new ideas and new voices into the legislature by setting term limits for legislative leadership positions such as the speaker of the House and Senate president. And we can empower local activists to elect a Democratic Party chair instead of continuing to select leadership through a closed-door coronation, which is how we’ve had the same politician serving as the speaker of the House and the chair of the Illinois Democratic Party for decades.
We need to challenge the political machine at its very core. To make progress towards a fair income tax, Medicare-for-all, and free college, we need a Democratic Party that cares more about progressive values than political points. When we join together around these common-sense reforms, we can build a system that works for us.
I’m running for governor because I believe that when we join together around a bold, new vision for our state, we can expand the politically possible and win the reforms we need and deserve. But I can’t do it alone—that’s why we need to rewrite the rules, and set up our government to respond to middle-class and working families.