US Senate Race for Illinois - 2004

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Republican Candidates
Alan Keyes
Jack Ryan
John Borling
Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria
Andy McKenna
Jim Oberweis
Steven Rauschenberger
Jonathan Wright
Antonio Davis-Fairman
John Cox
Patrick O'Malley
Jim Durkin

Democratic Candidates
Barack Obama
Gery Chico
Blair Hull
Estella Johnson-Hunt
Dan Hynes
Maria Pappas
Nancy Skinner
Joyce Washington
Frank Avila
Matt O'Shea
John Simmons

Color Codes:
Black - Potential Candidate
Green - Active Candidate
Red - Lost
Orange - Candidate has dropped out or is not running


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by Marc Zumhagen

   


Chicago IL -- The busy bus boys rushing by, the chink of glasses, waiters bringing out elaborate trays of food and appetizers, lots of people shaking hands, meeting, greeting, talking, and waiting in different lines; some for food, some for drinks, and some to meet Gery. This isn’t a wedding, or even a fancy business party, it’s one of more than sixty fundraisers that have vaulted Gery Chico (who has raised well over $2.25 million) into the coveted spot of top fundraiser for the 2004 Senate race in Illinois.

Even with this fundraiser (targeted toward young professionals) he probably won’t pull even with the funds that Blair Hull is willing to pour into his campaign, which may amount to $40 million.  The support that he has raised, through individual contributions and fundraisers like this one in downtown Chicago, not only provides Chico with capital to run his campaign it is also a tangible sign of support. With close to two thousand individual contributors and thousands more that have shown up to the various fundraisers the value of the supporters is greater than that of the money.

At the end of the campaign the winner will not be determined by money, although it always helps, it will be determined by the candidate’s message and its presentation. At this stage in the race very few people are actually talking about their message. On the Democratic side Chico and Obama are the only ones who have really talked [at a recent IVI-IPO candidate forum] about what plans they have, if they become senator. And of the candidates, Chico was the only candidate (with the exception of Joyce Washington who kept talking about some monolithic health care behemoth she would implement if elected) who kept the focus on what he would do, rather than what he would undo. Dan Hynes, who is projected by some to be the front runner, didn’t even bother to show up and drew harsh criticism from both Obama and Chico.

Chico is running on three major issues: the TI bill, a national job’s program to spur the recovering economy, and a national system to provide health care. Chico outlined his plans in his speech at the “Eat, Drink, and Meet Gery” fundraiser which was held last Tuesday. After being introduced by Michael Golden, his campaign manager, who gave a brief overview of Chico’s humble Southside beginnings to his success at school and jobs with the city, as Daley’s chief of staff then president of the Chicago school board, Chico stepped to the platform amidst applause.

“This campaign is about people” were some of Chico’s first words, “the people around you give you courage, courage to pursue ideals and ideals count.” Throughout his speech Chico talked about being idealistic enough to have ideas and the drive to see them through, and the need to be pragmatic enough to pass them in Congress, a cruel irony that is the strength of the democratic system. The TI bill, the main plank in the Chico platform, is a series of programs that would give teachers incentives (such as tax credits for teachers, grants, and loans) to become educators as well as provide incentives for teachers to stay working in schools and not to defect to other parts of the economy; it would also one up the President’s "No Child Left Behind" program by providing funding for schools to meet national requirements. “It is important to have national standards for education, “It’s not just something that can be left up to each state to decide on its' [the states] own. It is something that we need on a federal level, but we must also fund it!” At which point the audience burst into applause.

Chico also plans to add provisions for federally funded special education programs. His other major issue would be one to create jobs nationally through the upgrading of national infrastructure. “It would be the largest jobs program in the history of the United States and would create thousands of jobs!” said Chico. It is a very FDR-esc plan to rebuild roads and bridges and 85,000 new schools nation wide that would be financed through the issuance of federal infrastructure bonds. “This would boost the economy even further, and then we could all come out and eat at a place like Bob Chinns!” commented Chico to laughter and applause. Chico didn’t say very much on his health care plan except that, “we will come through with a national health care system where others have failed.”

His message of education, jobs, and health care are providing him with a base made up primarily of Latinos and suburban women, something which was commented on by some of the white males (a distinct minority at the fundraiser) saying “it has a very Latino flavor, much like the Cleveland Indians of the 90’s.” Tony Chico, a cousin to Gery, discounted the remark saying, “Lot’s of people are trying to pidgin hole Gery as appealing only to Latinos, but his campaign is very diverse, I mean just have a look around you,” he said gesturing with his hand, and from where we stood we could see representation of nearly every minority in Chicago as well non-minorities. “Gery is doing a lot downstate too,” said Joe Chico, another cousin, as we talked about his travels through the state. Indeed, Chico boasts the most endorsements (close to 200, 36 from elected officials in Illinois including 16 mayors) of any candidate in the state, he’s proud of them too, seeing as he has each one listed on his website. Another thing Chico has going for him is his good taste (he had his fundraiser at Bob Chinns…need I say more?)
 

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