Q&A with Illinois gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Q&A with Illinois gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss

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CARTERVILLE -- On Thursday, Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate State Sen. Daniel Biss sat down with News 3's Brandon Richard for a wide-ranging interview about his campaign, the state Democratic Party, his biggest guilty pleasure and his strange love for math.

It seems a lot of people may not know who you are, so who is Daniel Biss? 

I'm an ordinary middle class person who used to teach math and who's been in the legislature for seven years trying to build a political movement to have an Illinois government that works for the rest of  us. 

You recently said this campaign is a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party. What did you mean by that? 

We have to decide if we are going to be the billionaire's party or are we going to be the people's party. Are we going to have an election or are we going to have an auction? 

Do you think the Democratic Party establishment has been fair in this whole process? Do you think they've tipped the scales for J.B. Pritzker?

Listen, people can support who they want to support. There are establishment Democrats who are supporting J.B. Pritzker, but what I have seen is an outpouring of support from people across the state, who believe in a different path forward for the Democratic Party, people who want a middle class governor who understands how people live. 

Do you think Pritzker's wealth is a liability?

We shouldn't vote for someone or against someone because they're wealthy. What I'm concerned about is there are some Democrats who think we need our own billionaire to go up against Bruce Rauner. That's a dangerous direction for the party to go. I think we should pick the person who's best suited to understand the lives that normal people live. 

What is your opinion of Speaker Mike Madigan?

Listen, Mike Madigan has been there too long. He's too powerful. That's held the state back and it's held the Democratic Party back and the Madigan-Pritzker alliance is powerful, there's no question about it. But what's more important is what direction do the people want the Democratic Party and the state of Illinois to go. That's why I feel good about this race. 

What do you think of Bruce Rauner's governorship?

I don't know why he's running for re-election. I don't get it. He's failed. Sometimes it doesn't seem like he's even trying anymore. 

Why should people in southern Illinois vote for you?

Southern Illinois has been left behind by a state government way too long. We've had a state government that's been controlled by a few people for a few people. 

Is there anything you've learned about southern Illinois that you didn't know before you started campaigning?

I've actually never been to Cairo before this campaign and I've obviously learned a lot about the way in which the state has turned its back on a community of people. We need a government that actually governs for everyone in every corner in every zip code of the state of Illinois. 

What would be your top priority as governor?

We've got to fix our tax system and our school funding system. Right now, we have a tax system written by millionaires and billionaires for millionaires and billionaires

Okay. Time for some fun questions. What's your biggest guilty pleasure?

(Laughs) So I have strange eating habits sometimes. On the campaign trail, I don't have time to eat. We're running from event to event. I wind up at my house at midnight and sometimes can't stop snacking.

What's your favorite TV or Netflix show?

I wish I had more time for TV than I have recently. But you know what? If you're in politics, it's hard not to get some enjoyment from "Parks and Rec."

What book are you reading right now or look forward to reading?

So the next book on my list is actually called "Democracy in Chains," which is kind of a little dark and a little heavy. But the last book I just finished is "The Alchemist."

Okay. What is that about?

It's about a young man who travels the world in an effort to understand what a quest to find what really matters means, how to connect the hunger that he has in his own soul to build a right future for himself. With the hunger, he has to build a better future for the people around him, and it felt like something I'm pretty connected to nowadays.

Who was your biggest role model growing up?

When I was growing up, I actually read a lot about Rosa Parks. I found myself really, really motivated by someone who is able to not be necessarily the front of the parade, but somebody who by virtue of a single action was able to motivate a lot of other people to join her. That's a powerful thing. 

What don't people know about you that you would like for them to know?

That my name is Daniel Biss and I'm running for governor! Let's start there! You know (pauses) I'll just say this. People often ask why someone who used to teach math got into politics. There's a lot of ways to talk about that, but here's the fundamental answer. I have this incredible faith that if you organize enough people together, people who don't need to have money, people who don't need to be powerful in the conventional or traditional sense, people who have maybe been locked out and ignored for a long time, if you can organize enough people together and you're optimistic and you have high standards and you're relentless and you focus, you can change the world. 

And that observation is what brought me into politics. That observation is what brought me into this race for governor. And that observation is more important that any one policy change. It's about what it takes to bring people together to transform the balance of political power.

Final question. Why do you love math so much?

Does anyone not love math?

I can think of a few people!

Here's why. It's this abstract world that allows you to inhabit, in your own mind, imaginative worlds that are both technical and formal and rigorous, but also almost infinitely flexible. That kind of mental exercise of building a kind of different world and living in it and understanding the new rules that it exposes you to, and understanding how to manipulate those rules and learn something. It's like this really fun combination of precise and exact but also imaginative and creative and I love when those two things come together. 
 

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