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Illinois 2020 Elections: The Progressive Candidates to Support (Pink Tsunami)

So the last two political pieces I covered involved blisteringly red states where the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of the party of corrupt rich boomers, yet they still had some cracks starting to appear. Now we get to look at the opposite side of the coin; an overwhelmingly blue state that is about to get even bluer.

Okay maybe that’s not entirely accurate. Not because there are some more conservative areas of Illinois, but rather because there is a lot more to the state of politics than a simple “red vs blue” divide where blue is good and red is bad. Instead the dynamic that will be most talked about her is the “progressive vs neoliberal” divide.

The American Democratic party is currently in the middle of an ongoing civil war between two factions. There is a common misconception that figures like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi are to the far left on the political spectrum. While Republicans will often claim that these people are “radical socialists” who want to change the way this country functions, this actually could not be further from the truth.

The reality is that the US has not had a progressive President since Jimmy Carter, and that no major figure in US politics today is even close to socialist, not even people like Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who identify as such. Rather it is instead used as a way of positioning themselves as the opposition to the establishment “New Democratic Coalition” (referring to the the more centrist and conservative Democratic Party that formed following the election of Bill Clinton, who positioned himself as a fiscal conservative, “third way” Democrat) , and who instead seek to return the Democratic Party to its more progressive roots (post Woodrow Wilson of course) as seen with the likes of Franklin Roosevelt, John F Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter.

It could be argued that the Bill Clinton Presidency was a necessary compromise at the time given that twelve years of Reagan and George Bush indicated that the voter base at the time was increasingly conservative, but the “New Democratic Coalition” has long overstayed its welcome in a time where our current electorate have been pushed significantly further to the left. Considering that Barack Obama had to run on “hope” and “change” despite him being just as conservative as Bill Clinton, this indicates that there was demand for the Democratic Party to return to its roots as far back as 2008, or possibly even 2004 if John Kerry’s loss is any indication.

But corporations and corrupt governments never like to give up their power so easily. Hence why corporations continued to buy out the media and the government the more that Republicans continued to remove laws that prevented them. Resulting in the mainstream media pushing the narrative that a progressive like Bernie Sanders could never win in 2016, all the while they pulled every string and used every dirty trick to railroad Hillary Clinton into the nomination, which in turn resulted in the election of Donald Trump.

And that brings us to where we are today, where damn near every establishment Democrat under the sun is being challenged by a progressive candidate that promises to do the exact opposite of these corporate fuckups and actually work on making this country better. The downside is that the establishment Democrats are backed by billionaires, super PACs, and large corporations while progressive rely entirely on word of mouth and small dollar donations. In 2018, this meant that out of 68 progressive House challengers (as endorsed by Justice Democrats), only 20 of them won their respective primaries and only 4 of them went on to win the general election.

We also did not see a single progressive Senate challenger win their respective election in 2018 but hopefully 2020 will be different. We are already seeing progressive challengers crop up in many states, and Illinois is no different in that regard. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin is up for re-election this year, and his approval rating is barely in the net positives according to the latest morning consult ranking.

Dick Durbin Vape
No really.

Dick Durbin is your standard liberal politician in every way. He’s been in congress ever since the early 80s and he’s done nothing but go with what is “politically safe” since then. He supported reversing Roe Vs Wade up until 1989 and he voted in favor of the defense of marriage act in 1996. He was also a co-sponsor of the infamous “Protect IP Act” that sparked massive backlash in the early 2010s, and to this day he cautions about how Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are pushing too far to the left and that they will scare away all the voters by giving them healthcare so they don’t go bankrupt from medical bills.

Dick Durbin’s most pathetic moment though, that was back in 2005 after he rightfully compared the treatment of prisoners to Guantanamo Bay to that of a Nazi war crime, he received a lot of backlash from the right because he said mean no-no words about a US prison, and I kid you not, he apologized for his statement.

You cannot get any more spineless and cowardly than apologizing to literal war crime advocates for telling the truth. And this is the man that the people of Illinois elected to represent them for over thirty years. How absolutely pathetic! You know, for a Dick, he really is a bit of a pussy isn’t he?

Dick Durbin US Troops
He’s not wrong tho.

Naturally, a spineless worm like Durbin would attract a few primary challengers, and two progressive women have attempted to mount primary campaigns against him. Sadly, neither of them were able to make the ballot so Durbin is still going to be the Democratic nominee. The bright side is that there is an Independent candidate who is challenging Durbin from the left.

Unfortunately I would not classify Willie Wilson as a “Justice Democrat” and would have immensely preferred it if Anne Stava-Murray or Marilyn Jordan Lawlor managed to run a campaign against not so tricky Dick, but they lacked the money necessary to compete with a sitting, Senate Minority Whip. Willie Wilson is a rich Businessman, and that alone is cause for many leftists to be skeptical. His campaign page also gives us this gem.

Willie Wilson Quote
This quote is so vapid that you can already hear the corny “inspirational” music playing over it.

I do know there is a serious irony for me as a white woman, to argue against a black man saying that it can’t be “white versus black,” but this quote is such saccharine bullshit that does not have any basis in reality. “Original vision of our country” you say? I’d think that a reparations advocate of all people would know why that phrase is a load of bollocks!

The key problem with this statement is that all these examples are framed as one group against another while ignoring the context of what started these conflicts. The modern day Republican party is nothing more than an overblown cult that puts willful ignorance and blind loyalty above all else. The police as an organization are given way too much militaristic power and a free pass to exploit some of the most vulnerable members of our society, and I’ve already made my points about white people and the rich clear.

It’s quite clear that Wilson is of this perspective because he’s a rich businessman himself, and is thus more prone to spill some out of touch billionaire friendly hogwash. But to be fair, he IS a significantly better option than Durbin. His support of reparations alone means he’s already a better option than Durbin, and him being rich does mean that he’s less likely to require corporate wine cave fundraisers. On top of this, Illinois IS a pretty blue state so it’s less likely for him to be a “spoiler” candidate.

Still though, I’m not all that enthusiastic about Wilson, but the plus side is that Illinois has a ton of progressive House challengers. In fact, nine out of Illinois’s eighteen congressional districts have progressive challengers, and already a few of them have made a name for themselves. That number was originally thirteen, but John Morrow, Andrew Heldut, Adam Broad, and Spanky Edwards sadly failed to make the ballot.

Update: Andrew Heldut, Adam Broad, and Spanky Edwards each ran as write-in candidates, but none of them won.

Marie Newman

Perhaps the most well known is Marie Newman, who came within three percentage points of beating incumbent “Blue Dog” Democrat Dan Lipinski in 2018, and is hoping to finish the job in 2020. I can say with almost complete certainty that Newman will get the nomination in 2020 considering that she’s already out-raised Lipinski by about $200,000. Keep in mind that Lipinski is a corporate Democrat who gets all his support from corporations and Billionaire sugar daddies, while progressives like Newman are funded entirely by small dollar donations from regular people and progressive PACs like Justice Democrats and the like.

Most progressive challengers tend to be short on funds to run against rich corporatists like Lipinski, but Newman has already taken care of the hard part. So now we just count down days remaining until Lipinski gets the boot, and in the mean time, let’s take a look at Danny boy’s record.

Lipinski is one of the few Democrats in congress to be adamantly anti-choice throughout his entire career, to the point that he was one of only six Democrats voting in favor of a 20 week abortion ban in 2013, and that Pro-choice PAC Emily’s List is supporting Newman despite being traditionally focused on supporting only corporate centrists. Lipinski has also been a consistent homophobe, having admitted as recently as 2018 that he’s against gay marriage as if it is acceptable to call oneself a Democrat and be opposed to LGBT rights.

Marie Newman on the other hand, is not only pro-choice and pro-LGBT, but she is also in favor of a single payer health care plan and a green new deal, and addresses the important but rarely discussed issue of underemployment.

3/27/2020 Update: Marie Newman has successfully defeated Dan Lipinski in a major victory for the progressive movement. Considering that no Republican incumbent has won this district since the 70s, it’s pretty safe to assume Newman will win the general as well.

Don't be like Dan
This meme is as dead as Lipinski’s ideology.

Another one of the more well known challengers is Robert Emmons Jr, a nonprofit executive who is challenging incumbent representative Bobby Rush. Bobby Rush is not nearly as conservative as Dan Lipinski, hell he’s in favor of single payer and is a former black panthers activist. While Rush usually has the right ideas on civil rights issues, he’s also gotten a bit too close to Washington in his 26 years of tenure.

Bobby Rush has had quite a few actions that make you question whether or not he’s as progressive as he truly claims, such as his lack of support for a Green New Deal or his baffling decision to endorse a candidate most known for pushing tough on crime policies that have had disastrous effects on the black community, but nothing speaks less in his favor that his multiple campaign ethics violations. I’ll just quote Wikipedia on this one.

“The Office of Congressional Ethics referred a matter involving Rush to the House Ethics Committee in 2014.[54] The Office of Congressional Ethics report found he did not pay about $365,000 in rent for longtime use of an office to conduct politics.[55][56] Rush has paid family members for years in questionable practices. Rush had a family member who for years worked for his church but was paid by a campaign supporter and friend.[57] The Federal Election Commission questioned Rush’s campaign over a campaign-finance report that showed thousands of dollars spent on vague categories such as “campaign visibility” and “services rendered.” His campaign paid his wife, Carolyn, $50,000 in 2015 for consulting, and his brother, Marlon Rush of Lansing, $13,000 in 2016 for two months’ work as campaign manager, according to FEC reports.[58][59] Oxford Media Group Inc., an Oak Brook company owned by multimillionaire businessman Joseph Stroud, paid the Commonwealth Edison bill — which was well past due, totaling $17,900 for Rush’s Beloved Community Christian Church in 2010. Rush had personally been named in a ComEd lawsuit over the church’s previous unpaid bills. Stroud was trying to break into the wireless phone industry dominated by Verizon and AT&T, and Rush was pushing for federal tax incentives that would give one of Stroud’s other companies a leg up as a minority-owned business. A nonprofit Rush started got $1 million from the charitable arm of what’s now AT&T for what turned out to be a failed effort to create a “technology center” in Englewood. At the time, the telecom giant was seeking support for legislation in a House committee on which Rush was a key member.

From 2001 to 2013, businesses counting on favorable actions by Rush in Congress donated roughly $1.7 million to Rush’s pet charities. Rush attracted more charitable corporate giving than any other Illinois congressman, by a large margin, according to a Sunlight Foundation study of expenditures from 2009 to 2011. While it is impossible to assign cause and effect, at critical junctures Rush parted with fellow liberal Democrats in Congress to take pro-industry positions aligned with corporate benefactors SBC/AT&T, Comcast and ComEd.[61]

Robert Emmons on the other hand, is not only refusing money from corporations and corporate PACs, but he also does not back off on issues like Medicare for All or a Green New Deal, and thus far has been endorsed by the Sunrise Movement, Our Revolution, The People for Bernie, and Brand New Congress, so he is certainly within striking distance of Rush’s seat. While Bobby Rush is leading Emmons by over $100,000 in terms of fundraising, Emmons still has managed to raise a healthy $80,368 overall, which is pretty strong for a candidate with no corporate backing, and is within the 1 in 5 margin required to run a competitive race.

3/27/2020 Update: Robert Emmons was sadly unsuccessful.

Robert Emmons Jr & Anthony Clark

The same can be said for Anthony Clark, who challenged incumbent Danny Davis in 2018 and managed 26.1% of the vote, and was one of the 2018 Justice Democrats candidates. While Danny Davis is currently leading Clark’s $71,018 by about $200K, Clark IS still within the 1 to 5 ratio. Clark raised a total of $91,181 by the end of April in 2018, so he still has three months to break his previous record. This is not even taking into account that Clark and Davis are not the only candidates in this race.

You also have Kina Collins who seems to be running on similar ideas to Clark and is slightly edging out Clark in terms of fundraising. The other candidate is Kristine Schanbacher who is currently leading Davis by about $8,000. This would be impressive if she got all of this from small dollar donations the way that progressive candidates are supposed to, but then you discover that 71% of her funds came from donations over $200, and roughly 14% was self funded. This means only 14% of her contributions came from small dollar donors, which indicates that her campaign could very well be funded rich people who donate the max amount in exchange for favors. While she is still an improvement over Davis (who I will get to shortly), it’s best to stick with Clark if you want someone who is free of Wine Cave fundraisers. This also fits in with the fact that she supports Pete Buttigieg’s sleazy “Medicare for All Who Want it” plan.

So what’s the deal with Danny Davis? Similarly to Bobby Rush, one could get the idea that Davis is alright if you look at him from a surface level. He secured a Democratic Socialists of America endorsement in 1996 after all. Like most politicians, he let his standards slip once he got elected. The most obvious thing to point out is how less than 2% of Davis’s campaign funds came from donations under $200 and how 87% comes from PACs, so that alone makes him an inferior choice to any of his opponents. But lets take a look at his record.

Major Content Warning for Antisemitism

Danny Davis has attracted the most controversy for his defense Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a militant black nationalist, anti-Semite, and homophobe who has praised Adolf Hitler and believes “the Jews” were behind 9/11. It is important to note the the following quote is NOT made up. Davis really said this phrase verbatim. Serious content warning for anti semitism and the holocaust. This image paired with this quote will likely be upsetting and disgusting, and that is fully intentional as there is no other way I can sum up how fucking wrong it is that a sitting member of congress said this.

Danny Davis Jewish Question
Fucking Disgraceful!!

Danny Davis says that he was “misquoted” in the Daily Caller interview this quote is from, but the only part he argues against is the implication that he himself is antisemitic. Ah yes, Danny Davis may not believe that Jews are vermin or that Hitler was an amazing person, he just isn’t going to take a side on the Jewish Question. He also isn’t going to shy away from praising people who think Jews need to be exterminated.

The dismissiveness of his attitude is astounding, and even though he later disavowed Farrakhan, the sheer fact that he could literally use “The Jewish Question” in a sentence and the worst he can say is that it is “not his thing” is more than enough to call his judgement into question. How detached from reality do you need to be to even think for one fraction of a second that this is okay? This quote literally sounds like something I’d sarcastically say to take the piss out of Steve King!

CW Over

This would be bad enough on its own, but Davis has also had a trip to Sri Lanka that was funded by a terrorist group, and has defended the Church of Scientology. Granted he claims that he didn’t know the Tamil Tigers paid for his trip, nor did he know about the more sinister cultish aspects of Scientology, but it still calls his judgement into question. Also on the subject of terrible people that Davis supports, he endorsed Joe Biden for President. Because Goddess forbid members of congress support the candidate who is actually best for the position, that might make the donors angry!

Lastly, I’ll close this section on Davis by quoting an opinion piece endorsing Anthony Clark’s campaign in 2018.

Mr. Clark has been vetted by Brand New Congress, a community organization that underscores his progressive bona fides, in addition to his ceaseless organizing and charity. But Anthony Clark’s values and progressive vision have been imperiled by the corrupt incumbent’s cagey (but par for the course) Chicago tactics: Congressman Davis has repeatedly posed financial and legal challenges to Clark’s petitions and called into question the integrity of Clark’s devoted family. These challenges, expected from entrenched Chicago politicos, thwart the very real protocols and promises of democracy.

What is more, the most perverse aspect of Davis’ craven challenges are not these bankrupt personal attacks, nor his nearly 10% absent rate from congressional votes. No, the best indicator of incumbent Congressman Davis’ unfitness for office is his unwillingness to meet in public and debate candidate Anthony Clark.”

3/27/2020 Update: Anthony Clark lost again sadly.

So Marie Newman seems like she’s set to win, and Robert Emmons and Anthony Clark are within striking distance of their respective seats. The remaining six are unfortunately in the long shot category, and will be unlikely to win unless they get a boost in fundraising.

Dani Brzozowski

Of these six, Dani Brzozowski who has raised $50,552, has currently raised the most. Unfortunately she is running in a red district against an opponent who has raised over a million dollars, over half of which is dark money and 45% of which is either PAC contributions or Wine Cave fundraisers. The plus side is that she’s the only one running for the Democratic nomination. While she doesn’t have any major endorsements, nor has she demonstrated support for major progressive policies aside from Medicare for All, she is undoubtedly an improvement over Adam Kinzinger.

I likely don’t need to say much about Kinzinger since he’s your typical Republican goon. He was opposed to Donald Trump being the Republican nominee for all of three seconds before bending the knees like every other Republican in office, and has voted with him 93% of the time. He also hates Planned Parenthood so much that he demanded an apology from them during the middle of a mass shooting where THEY WERE THE TARGET!! The plus side his district is only and R+4, so it’s possible that a more progressive challenger like Brzozowski may have a better shot than a neoliberal one.

Following Brzozozwski, we have Rachel Ventura with $36,803 raised thus far. She is attempting to challenge Democratic incumbent Bill Foster, who has raised over $1,000,000 dollars and has more than three times that amount on hand. As expected, Foster has obtained over 90% of those funds from dark money, corporate PACs, or Wine Cave fundraisers. He is also predictably opposed to Medicare for All and a Green New Deal because his donors forbid him.

Rachel Ventura

I am actually having trouble finding info on Bill Foster that separates him from every other neoliberal corporate goon. I know that he is a member of the neoliberal “New Democratic Coalition” and that he is against Medicare for All and Green New Deal, the latter of which is especially egregious because he’s supposed to be a scientist.

3/27/2020 Update: Rachel Ventura did not win the nomination, but she vastly outperformed my expectations and obtained 41% of the vote.

While Ventura is currently behind on funds, she does at least have the backing of Brand New Congress, Our Revolution, the Democratic Socialists of America, and the Sunrise Movement, so this does leave her with a bit of room to grow. The same cannot be said of Ray Lenzi unfortunately. He currently has raised $26,676, which is about half of his more neoliberal primary opponent Joel Funk, whose campaign is mostly self funded. This means that Lenzi has a decent chance of getting the nomination, but beating Mike Bost and his million dollar Wine Cave stash is a whole other story.

Ray Lenzi

This is a shame because Mike Bost has been quite infamous for being a loud, screaming nutjob, so much so that he is often called “Meltdown Mike.” While I’m not of the opinion that getting emotional or angry is enough to disqualify someone for office, I just want to point out the double standard of an angry white guy coming across as “endearing” for his meltdowns, that if any woman were in his place then they’d have a fuckton of angry fuckboys foaming at the mouth.

He’s otherwise your typical Republican trash who has voted with Trump 96% of the time and has the exact same views and voting record as every other Trump bot in office. He is against Planned Parenthood, LGBT people having basic human rights, people not dying because they don’t have healthcare, stopping climate change, and Town Hall meetings. The plus side is that he only won with 51% of the vote in 2018, so maybe Lenzi may have more of a shot than first thought.

3/27/2020 Update: Ray Lenzi has successfully won the nomination, but unfortunately he either “pivoted” or I misread something, because I can’t find any source of him saying he supports Medicare for All, which was basically the bare minimum for being a progressive. He at least has a Sunrise Movement endorsement though.

Stefanie Smith
I am not sure if this is the most professional reaction to have to a congressional candidate, but HOLY FUCK I’M GAY!!!!

Next we have Stefanie Smith, a former sex worker who has the backing of the Rose Caucus and the Democratic Socialists of America. Her background as a sex worker makes me want her to win REALLY fucking bad because we need sex worker representation in congress. Our congress is so fucking backwards on sex workers rights that even Bernie Sanders himself voted in favor of SESTA/FOSTA. Unfortunately, she has perhaps the lowest chance of any of the candidates I covered.

Smith has only raised $6,795 as of December 31st 2019, which is nowhere near enough when her NON INCUMBENT primary opponent has raised over a million dollars through Wine Cave fundraisers, or the Republican incumbent who has raised even more dough through corporate PACs. There may be a chance if groups like Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress decide to support her, but it’s still a longshot. Believe me I REALLY want her to win this!! The plus side is that even if Betsy Londrigan gets the nomination, she may still win given that Rodney Davis beat her with a less than 1% lead in 2018, so we will at least see one less Republican in office.

3/27/2020 Update: She didn’t win, sadly.

Brian Burns
Brian Burns, progressive Democratic candidate for Illinois’ 5th Congressional District!

Next we have Brian Burns, who has raised $5,896 and has -$1,159 on hand (that means he’s in debt). He has no major groups backing him and he’s running against Democratic incumbent Mike Quigley, another “New Democratic Coalition” member who has raised $606,477 through corporate PACs, and has over one million dollars on hand. Even worse is that unlike Stefanie Smith, Burns does not have the backing of any major progressive PACs, so he may be even less likely to win. Regardless, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

3/27/2020 Update: He didn’t win.

The remaining progressive is John Hursey Jr, and the reason I have covered him last is because his campaign finance info is still not available on opensecrets yet, so I don’t know where to rank him among the rest of our candidates. Right from Hursey’s campaign site, you can tell that he is going with a unique approach. Rather than saying that he runs on “issues,” he…. it’s best you just read it yourself.

John W Hursey

While I’m not fond of his dismissive “issues are for losers” statement, I will give credit that this is a unique and interesting enough hook that no corporate neoliberal could have come up with it. In the process of researching for these pieces, one reads a lot of pages for political campaigns, and holy fuck are they interchangeable. It’s gotten to the point that I can no longer see the phrase “quality affordable healthcare” without cringing so tight I dislocate my jaw and going bankrupt because we don’t have Medicare for All.

Thankfully, I looked at his social media and he is in favor of Medicare for All, and he’s also the only candidate in his respective race who is for it. He also said that he initially entered the race to draw further attention to then incumbent John Shimkus’s involvement in the Mark Foley sex abuse scandal, but Shimkus has decided to not run for re-election this year. It makes one wonder if Hursey’s campaign played any role in it.

The current Republican front runner to be Shimkus’s replacement is Mary Miller, an insufferable blonde hair blue eyed conservative stereotype who was endorsed by Ted Cruz. Her first two sections listed on her issues page are “border security” and “second amendment.” The rest of her issues page can basically be summed up as “Trump good, libs bad” without any substance to back it up because her entire campaign is meant to pander to the same type of man-children whose entire political ideology comes from watching Sargon of Akkad and browsing /pol/.

Mary Miller Issues
You don’t even need to read these to know what they say.

Unfortunately this district has an R+21 rating and a Democrat hasn’t held this House seat since the 70s. The plus side is the Hursey seems to be aware of this, hence his unconventional approach to this campaign. He seems like the most likely one to get the nomination at this point since I can’t imagine the Democratic establishment paying too much attention to this one. I don’t know if Hursey will win, but I think he’ll do better than any of us expect so I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

3/27/2020 Update: Hursey didn’t win either.

So we have 9 progressive candidates who have made the ballot in their respective districts, which is a pretty good sign of things to come. While it is unfortunate that Brad Schneider and Cheri Bustos managed to keep their respective challengers off the ballot, it will still be a major achievement if we get rid of Dan Lipinski. Here’s a donation link to each of the progressive challengers in question.

Marie Newman –
Robert Emmons Jr –
Anthony Clark –
Dani Brzozowski –
Rachel Ventura –
Ray Lenzi –
Stefanie Smith –
Brian Burns –
John Hursey ––hursey-jr-campaign-for-congress-1

In addition to these nine, the previous mentioned Anne Stava-Murray is up for re-election, and she seems to be one of the few progressive voices in the Illinois State Legislature, so it’s important that we keep her around. So you can donate to her campaign here. The same goes for Lakesia Collins who running in a seven person primary for Illinois’ 9th State House seat, and is the only candidate in that race to support Medicare for All. You can donate to her campaign here.

We also have Syamala Krishnamsetty, who is attempting to primary Illinois State House District 40 incumbent Jaime Andrade and supports Medicare for All and ranked choice voting. You can donate to her campaign here. Same goes for Peter Janko, who is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge State House District 63 Republican incumbent Steven Reick, and who is a founding member of Medicare for All Norther Illinois. You can donate to his campaign here. Lastly but certainly not least-ly, we have Josh Grys who is running to flip a red district with a vacant seat and is in favor of Medicare for All. You can donate to his campaign here.

3/27/2020 Update: Lakesia Collins has successfully procured the nomination for her district. Anne Stave-Murray and Josh Grys also ran unopposed for their respective nominations.

So there you have it folks, we definitely have a strong progressive movement occurring in Illinois, and I am hopeful that at least a few of these candidates win their respective elections. If any of you are Bernie Sanders supporters and live in Illinois, then it is highly recommended to do whatever you can to support these candidates and get the word out. He will need as much support as he can if he wins the Presidency, so we better replace as many Neoliberals and Republicans as we can.

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