By Elizabeth Beyer
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.
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.”
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.]