All posts by elizabethbeyer2018

Election night dims early for State Sen. Daniel Biss

By Elizabeth Beyer
Medill Reports

The crowd of roughly 350 staffers, volunteers and supporters of State Sen. Daniel Biss (9th) shifted from joyful to somber in just two hours after the polls closed across Illinois earlier this evening.

Billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker won the Democratic gubernatorial primary race with more than 45 percent of the vote, nearly matching the 50 percent vote count that Biss and Chris Kennedy captured combined.

A supporter of State Sen. Daniel Biss listens as he delivers his concession speech on election night.

Biss shot ahead shortly after polls closed with less than 1 percent of the precincts reporting, but the race quickly turned in favor of Pritzker. The State Senator lost both the gubernatorial primary and his current senate seat this evening. His senate seat was up for re-election this year and Biss was only able to enter one political contest.

But Biss, who ran as the “middle-class candidate” among the front-runners, offered hope and gratitude in his concession speech.

“In so many ways, what we did was a success. We saw a broken system here in Illinois, a system where big money and political machines have way too much power,” Biss said during his concession speech. “We knew the solution to that, more than any one policy, was to fight for our democracy.”

The crowd listens to State Sen. Daniel Biss’ concession speech following his defeat in the primary for the Illinois gubernatorial race.

Nora Handler, a 62-year-old campaign volunteer for Biss said the State Senator’s record of supporting policy issues for people with disabilities motivated her to join Get Out the Vote efforts in support of the candidate.

“I’ve seen him on the streets fighting for budget cut issues and wage issues for people who support people with disabilities, long before he ran for governor.” said Handler. The state senator and former University of Chicago math professor has held office in Illinois since 2011 .

The race heated up quickly between Biss and Pritzker, from the first televised forum when Pritzker called into question the State Senator’s voting record in support of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, to the last gubernatorial forum, where Biss called the billionaire’s campaign a fraud.

Pritzker is estimated to have spent nearly $70 million to win the primary. Wealthy businessman Chris Kennedy is the son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

[Photo at top: Illinois State Sen. Daniel Biss (9th) and gubernatorial primary candidate pauses for the applause before delivering his concession speech on election night. He was joined on stage by his running mate State Rep. Litesa Wallace (67th), his family, and supporters.]

The After-Bern: Will Bernie Sanders make another run for President?

By Elizabeth Beyer
Medill Reports

Supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are already calling on him to run for president in 2020.

The Vermont politician has yet to confirm or deny his second bid for the presidency but multiple news outlets have hinted at the possibility.

Regardless of his rumored political aspirations for the next presidential election, the impact Sanders had on the 2016 campaign trail and Democratic Party politics is lasting.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders backs Jesús “Chuy” García for Congress

By Elizabeth Beyer
Medill Reports

Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders spoke during a rally for congressional candidate Jesús “Chuy” García at Apollos 2000 in Little Village recently. Garcia is one of  three Democratic candidates vying for Congressman Luis Gutierrez’s seat after the representative of the 4th District in Illinois announced he would not seek reelection.

“I’m not here because Chuy Garcia is a friend of mine,” said Sanders. “I am here this afternoon because we are living in a pivotal moment in American history, we need strong progressive voices in Washington and Chuy Garcia will be that voice.” Continue reading

Devastation still evident in Puerto Rico five months after Maria

By Elizabeth Beyer
Medill Reports

Rolling blackouts and lack of access to running water still plague much of Puerto Rico five months after Hurricane Maria struck the island.

Residents of the La Perla neighborhood of San Juan fear they will be left out of plans to rebuild the electric delivery system entirely. That threatens to leave the community on its own to figure out a method for energy production and delivery, according to University of Puerto Rico student Ibrahim Lopez-Hernandez, who was talking to community organizers.

Wind power might be one option, he said.

In Arecibo, west of San Juan, residents have long fought against a proposed waste incinerator. Gov. Ricardo Rossello rescinded his support of the project in February, but the fiscal control board overseeing the island’s energy system still supports the proposal. The proposed incinerator could produce energy, but would potentially pollute the communities surrounding the site.

“It’s still very hard to go about daily living,” said Ruth Santiago, an organizer Coqui Solar, about life after the storm. Coqui Solar is a community organization focused on making solar energy accessible to island residents.

“Everyday people needed to go out and sort of live out of their cars because it was a way to get your basic necessities,” she said.

Solar energy offers a future for energy production on the island, said Saybian Torres, a resident of Las Mareas, a community roughly 30 miles west of where Hurricane Maria hit the island. Torres spent 109 days without power and now volunteers with Coqui Solar.

“Now we know, we learned from it,” he said of the hurricane. Torres remains hopeful that residents of the island will take what they’ve learned from Hurricane Maria and use it to strengthen their communities.

Photo at top: A cruise ship can be seen in the bay at San Juan. Tourism is coming back slowly to the area, but many businesses closed during and after the hurricane and haven’t reopened. (Elizabeth Beyer/Medill)


An earlier version of this story stated that Gov. Ricardo Rossello vetoed a bill in favor of a proposed waste incinerator in Arecibo. That was incorrect, Gov. Rossello rescinded his support of the incinerator; there was no legislation and no veto involved. Medill Reports regrets the error.

20-year-old candidate for Cook County’s 13th District pushes grassroots campaigning

By Elizabeth Beyer
Medill Reports

Bushra Amiwala was still in her teens when she announced her candidacy last March as one of three democratic contenders for the Cook County Board in the 13th District.

The DePaul University student, now 20, said people questioned her qualifications and background because of her age when she entered into the race. But the recent wave of first-time female candidates washed away the skeptics. Continue reading

Record number of millennials sign up to run for local office in 2018 midterms


By Elizabeth Beyer
Medill Reports

Grassroots organizations launched since the last national election to train young first-time candidates received thousands of requests for assistance.

First time candidates under the age of 35 are taking on entrenched incumbents in midterm races across the country. Many of them cited the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and lack of representation in local politics as their motivation.

One such organization, Run For Something, launched in January of 2017 with mostly small-donor contributions. 

“We thought it’d be really small, we’d get maybe 100 people who would want to run in the first year. Instead we have 15,000 millennials signed up with us to say they want to run for office,” said Amanda Litman, founder of Run for Something.

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Democratic candidates trade digs at the first televised Illinois gubernatorial forum

By Elizabeth Beyer

Democratic candidates with an eye on winning Gov. Bruce Rauner’s title took fire at each other Tuesday night for the first televised debate of the gubernatorial race. The debate signaled a growing rivalry between candidates that include billionaire financier J. B. Pritzker, State Senator Daniel Biss and businessman Chris Kennedy as the March primaries draw near.

Candidates touched on ties to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, taxes, funding for education, and Pritzker’s toilet, among other issues. WTTW’s Carol Marin moderated the debate that included Dr. Robert Marshall, a frequent office-seeker, Tio Hardiman, executive director of the Violence Interrupters, and Bob Daiber, Madison County regional school superintendent.

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Marchers rally for women candidates and immigrants at March to the Polls

By Elizabeth Beyer

The 300,000-strong show of force to get-out-the-vote for women and progressive candidates energized marchers gathered in downtown Chicago on Saturday for the Women’s March to the Polls.

Organizers estimated that attendance was up 50,000 compared to last year’s march, as participants joined the call for high voter turnout in upcoming local and national elections to counter policies of President Donald Trump on the one-year anniversary of his presidency.

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