THE LOOP — State Sen. Daniel Biss and his new running mate Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) vowed Friday to remake the Illinois Democratic Party in their first joint interview after announcing they were joining forces for the 2018 campaign.
Biss and Ramirez-Rosa, 28, said they were running to build a "progressive movement" in an effort to remake state government from the top down.
"If you think the economy is working well, we are probably not your ticket," Biss said.
Ramirez-Rosa — who would become the first openly gay Latino elected to statewide office in Illinois —said he is running for lieutenant governor after less than a full term on the Chicago City Council to "put working people first.
"We are in a very deep crisis," Ramirez-Rosa said. "Gov. Bruce Rauner has been a complete disaster."
Biss, a state senator from Evanston, said he "thought hard" about partnering with Ramirez-Rosa, who is a member of the Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
"Now is not a time to be cautious," said Biss, adding that he hoped his selection of Ramirez-Rosa would help ease the lingering angst over the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. While Ramirez-Rosa was an outspoken supporter of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Biss supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Biss and Ramirez-Rosa said they would work to make Illinois the first state to offer Medicare to all residents, rather than waiting for the federal government to act.
In addition, Biss said Illinois needs a progressive income tax — and should reduce property taxes.
"That is an achievable goal," Biss said. "Our expectations have been too low."
Ramirez-Rosa said he had been a "lifelong Democrat" in the mold of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Sanders. Sanders, although he ran as a Democrat for president, remains an Independent.
"It is not a scary thing," Ramirez-Rosa said, adding that he would continue working on issues he has championed as an alderman, including an effort to prevent more cuts to city schools by dipping into redevelopment funds and taxing big firms as well as the need for rent control and more affordable housing.
Biss said he would throw his full support behind whoever wins the primary.
"We have to defeat Bruce Rauner," Biss said.
If elected, Biss said he would reverse a voucher-like program designed to help families pay for private school tuition that was part of the education funding bill signed by Rauner on Thursday. The $75 million tuition tax credit program offers scholarships for private or parochial schools or cover the cost to parents who want to send their sons or daughters to a public school outside their home school district
"That crosses a red line," Biss said. "It is real dangerous."