Toi Hutchinson-- The Best Candidate For The Job
Over the last few weeks, we’ve written a lot about the special election in the 2nd District of Illinois. We’ve sounded the alarm: there’s a good chance that if we do nothing we’ll send the corporatist Debbie Halvorson back to Congress. Just to refresh your memory, Halvorson is the same congresswoman who proudly describes herself as a “conservative Democrat” and sided with big Wall Street banksters against her own constituents every chance she got. She voted against Wall Street Reform. She voted against cramdown measures that would have helped homeowners underwater on their mortgages. And now, after Newtown, Aurora, Tucson and countless other shootings, Debbie Halvorson is continuing to carry water for the NRA. She’s unrepentant about her support for assault weapons and has made it clear she will stand against President Obama's gun control efforts in Washington.
Fortunately, we have a great progressive choice; Toi Hutchinson is a state Senator who has worked hard since getting to Springfield to look out for regular working families. She’s helped to pass legislation that will create thousands of union friendly jobs by investing in infrastructure projects like road construction and public transit expansion. She passed a tax on strip clubs to fund rape crisis centers while the rest of the states were cutting the safety net. Toi voted for campaign finance reform that transformed Illinois, a place that previously allowed unlimited corporate and individual contributions, into a place with contribution caps and mandatory 48-hour reporting cycles for contributions over $1000 (more stringent than the federal system). She voted against a massive $1.2 billion Illinois Medicaid cut. She worked with local businesses to buy backpacks full of school supplies for 1500 struggling children who couldn’t afford what they needed otherwise. She voted to cut her pay four times and end lifetime healthcare for legislators (that both Debbie Halvorson and Robin Kelly received). And she’s now a co-sponsor on legislation that will ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in Illinois.
But over the last few days, I’ve been asked again and again why we would choose Toi Hutchinson over Robin Kelly. The first part of the answer is simple-- we have to beat Debbie Halvorson, and Toi can do that. Several different polls, including Robin Kelly’s, show Toi running second behind Halvorson with Kelly in third. Toi’s geographic base in the 40th Senate District means she cuts into Halvorson’s votes in Will and Kankakee counties and prevents her from running away with this election.
But these last few days, Robin Kelly has accepted some endorsements that should cause any good progressive to question whether she can be trusted. Yes, we should sometimes judge people by the company they keep. Let’s take them one at a time:
Senator Donne Trotter: Trotter was briefly a candidate for this race before being forced to drop out after carrying a gun, by accident he says, into O’Hare International Airport. Fine-- he forgot he was packing when he walked through security. To err is human. But how did he get that gun? Illinois right now is the only state that outlaws concealed carry, but Trotter somehow had a concealed carry permit. See, he was registered as a security guard with AllPoints Security-- a politically connected firm that does business with various governmental agencies. Unfortunately, there are a few problems with that story. First of all, the gun Trotter was carrying, a .25 Beretta, isn’t used by any security guard anywhere. Second of all, not a single one of Trotter’s colleagues knew that the 63-year-old was moonlighting as a security guard, nor did he disclose to the state any income from AllPoints. He’s currently awaiting trial in March. Robin Kelly has been claiming for the last few months that she is an avid crusader for gun reform, yet she just accepted the endorsement of a man who not only flouted the very gun laws she claims to support, but used his clout to get himself a concealed carry permit that regular citizens can’t have?
Senator Napoleon Harris: The newly elected Senator Harris is a dangerous voice within the Democratic Party. I’m shocked that he’s even a Democrat, but probably in the district he ran in it wouldn’t look good to run as a Republican. Anyway, Senator Harris is most famous for being a linebacker in the NFL. He was also a candidate in this race before dropping out and endorsing Kelly. But not before making some insane pronouncements on the record. Senator Harris is opposed to the Equal Rights Amendment. He is a supporter of the Illinois Abortion Law and would refuse to vote to repeal it. The Abortion Law says that as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion will become illegal in Illinois even in cases of rape and incest. He is an opponent of marriage equality. And, though an African American, he is a proponent of voter ID laws that depress turnout among the poor and minorities. Maybe he took one too many hits to the head in the NFL. So Robin Kelly-- the self-professed progressive-- just took an endorsement from a sexist, anti-choice, homophobic racist.
And here’s the thing. Anyone who knows anything about Illinois knows that it is a state that has been plagued with corruption. Citizens of that state have suffered under machine politicians and establishment figures whose first loyalty is to themselves and their pocket books. That’s why three members of the Illinois General Assembly are currently under indictment, including Donne Trotter who we talked about above. But with Robin Kelly, this isn’t just a game of associations.
Robin Kelly served as Chief of Staff to then-Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (a questionable figure in his own right). While she and Giannoulias were running Treasury, they failed to oversee the Bright Start college savings fund, losing $160 million that 65,000 parents across the state had counted on for their children. The money was lost by a fund that was reported to parents as a lower-risk investment that was intended to place money in government bonds and other generally safe bets. Instead the fund was investing in mortgage-backed securities and kept the money there even as losses mounted. And while the fund tanked, Giannoulias and Kelly refused to fire the fund manager, eventually losing 38% of the fund value before finally pulling the plug (other funds in the Bright Start portfolio actually gained). And while all this was happening, Robin Kelly enjoyed the use of a state car purchased for her benefit using taxpayer dollars.
And her illustrious career in the state house included votes to raise her own pay and votes against fulfilling pension obligations to public employees, an unfortunate counterpoint to Toi’s record of giving back. And in contrast, several dozen prominent pastors from across the district announced their support for Toi Hutchinson’s campaign at a prayer breakfast Thursday morning, calling her the strongest candidate in the race with a deep commitment to serving the needs of the South Side and South Suburbs.
“There is no question in our mind that Toi Hutchinson is the candidate who will take our voices with us to Congress,” said Bishop Simon Gordon of Triedstone Full Grace Baptist Church. “She has the kind of commitment to anti-violence, education, and job creation that we need so desperately right now. I’m excited to have her fighting for us in Washington.”One thing is clear: if we keep electing flawed, mediocre candidates, we get flawed mediocre government-- regardless of political party. Listen to this interview Toi did last week with Nicole Sandler on her radio show and you'll get an idea of why Blue America endorsed her. It's worth listening to-- and when you're done, please consider making a contribution at the ActBlue special election page we set up here. The election is less than a month away. AFSME just endorsed Toi this morning! And Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle passed over Robin Kelly, one of her own staffers, to back Toi.
“As community leaders on the South Side and in the South Suburbs, the pastors got together because we know we have to send a leader to Washington who will always put us first,” said Pastor Walter Turner of New Spiritual Light Missionary Baptist Church. “Toi Hutchinson is absolutely that candidate. Her record of reform and hard work for economic development in this area is what motivated me to throw my weight behind her, and I’m confident the voters will agree on election day.”
"In just one term, Halvorson managed to vote against President Obama's agenda on 88 separate occasions," said Preckwinkle. "Debbie Halvorson voted against tough reforms on Wall Street and against extending unemployment benefits. And she even sided with the Republicans to give huge tax breaks to the wealthiest one percent of the population."
Preckwinkle’s endorsement may be the first sign that Cook County’s black leadership is closing ranks around a single candidate in order to stop Halvorson, who Sunday announced she opposes President Obama’s proposed ban on assault weapons.