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ELECTIONS Illinois Governor candidate Tio Hardiman wants to govern "from bottom to top"
by Matt Simonette

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Activist Tio Hardiman, who is executive director of Violence Interrupters NPC, a Chicago-based non-profit organization of violent conflict intervention experts, is vying again for the governor's office in 2018. He previously ran in 2014, but lost to Gov. Pat Quinn in that primary. Among Hardiman's opponents in the 2018 race are businessmen J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy; Bob state Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston; downstate education official Bob Daiber; and physician Robert Marshall. Republican candidates include incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner and state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton.

Windy City Times: What prompted your run?

Tio Hardiman: I'm really concerned about the direction the state is going in, with regards to Bruce Rauner's failed policies. I'm running because I'm a serious champion for the poor, middle class and working class people here in Illinois.

WCT: What do you perceive as Rauner's failure?

TH: You have a governor that stated he "is not in charge." If you're not in charge, move over and let a real governor take the lead. Why would you ask people to vote for you again, so you can "not be in charge" for another four years? Secondly, he can't point to any economic success here in the state. The budget is not balanced—we have a deficit in the budget. He ran for governor stating that he was going to shake up Springfield, but the only thing he shook up was the poor and working class people of Illinois. He cannot get things done because he does not know how to maneuver and negotiate the two sides of aisle. You have a governor who cannot attract any new businesses here; there are thousands of people that have moved out under Bruce Rauner. This guy cannot pinpoint anything substantial.

WCT: What makes you a better choice than the other candidates on the Democratic ticket?

TH: My running-mate and I have a "20/20 plan," which represents a perfect vision to move the state forward. We support a progressive tax, a financial transactions tax, women's rights, LGBTQ rights, [and] an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. We also support a plan that would decrease gun violence in Illinois, especially in Chicago, by 50 percent. … There is an opportunity to turn a historical campaign into a movement, and that's what makes me different. We can't go on with the same stereotypical candidates to run for governor. We're being misled by the same people. We're going to govern from the bottom to the top, not the top to the bottom.

WCT: You have not had the financial resources enjoyed by the other candidates. How have you been getting the message out?

TH: We've been getting the message out. We've got yard signs out in Cook County, Champaign County, St. Clair County. …. social media is doing good. You have to understand: I'm not trying to be seen as a big-money candidate. We're right where we need to be. That's my strategy, to be an alternative to the wealthy candidate. Our campaign is powered by the people. We're trying to run a peace-and-prosperity campaign. If was to raise a million dollars right now, the media would say I didn't have enough money. … If members of the LGBT community want to have a proven champion for them, it's Team Hardiman.

I saved the lives of two transgender women a few years ago in the Austin community, when some guys tried to take their lives. I stepped up to save their lives. I put my life on the line to save their lives. I'm not here to judge anybody with how they live their lives. I respect the LGBT community. I don't say that just because I'm running for governor. I'm saying that based on my life experience, among all walks of life.

WCT: You spoke here about your experience with the transgender women in Austin, and in a previous interview with Windy City Times, you spoke about your son coming out to you. What other engagement or work have you had with the LGBT community?

TH: Before anyone else was speaking out about violence against the community, back in the late '70s and '80s, I knew a guy whom I grew up with back in the Avalon Park community. He was being bullied by a lot of guys in the neighborhood. In my younger days, I took him under my wing and stuck up for him. He started protecting himself as he grew up. I also never judge people. My stepson is gay, and I have no issue with that. … I accept people for who they are. I'm passionate about it: Everybody deserves the opportunity to be themselves, everybody. I've attended the Pride parades up on Belmont on a yearly basis, to support my stepson and the community at large. I can tell you this much: I'm the kind of guy who, if someone messes with people, and those people have rights [being violated], I'm going all the way for them. If someone tries to take away the progress that the LGBT community has made so far, I will stand with the LGBT community.

WCT: What are some issues for Illinois' LGBT community that the governor can work on?

TH: My thing is, I plan to hire members of the LGBT community to work in my administration. Personally, I would like to applaud and salute the community, because I think they have done a great job pushing forward policy. They've been successful at getting things done. I don't like the way Rep. Jeanne Ives has been making comments with the LGBT community, particularly transgender people. As governor, I would make sure we have members of the LGBT community on my staff, so that when it comes to issues, we'll make sure that we look at them very closely, so that we do what's right by humanity, all human beings.

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