Another State Senator for Governor

An Illinois State Senator has decided to pursue an independent campaign for governor of Illinois. He joins a growing list of strong independent and third party candidates running for governor all across the country this year.

From the State Journal-Register...

State Sen. James Meeks of Chicago said Friday he will begin circulating petitions next week to run as an independent candidate for governor in November.

Meeks, who is pastor of the 22,000-member Salem Baptist Church in Chicago, met Thursday with Gov. Rod Blagojevich but said he intends to move forward with his gubernatorial bid.

“Everything is the same; nothing’s changed,” Meeks said. “I can’t start circulating petitions until March 28. Sometime after that date, I’ll be circulating petitions.”

To qualify for the Nov. 7 ballot, Meeks must present at least 25,000 verifiable signatures to the State Board of Elections by June 26.

Meeks, who was elected to the Senate as an independent in 2002 and leads the Legislative Black Caucus, said education and social service funding is inadequate under Blagojevich, a Democrat. He said he wants a detailed plan from the governor about how that will improve.

“If it is indeed true that the votes of the Hispanics, poor whites and blacks are what the governor is counting on to become governor again, then those individuals should know prior to casting their votes that resources from the state of Illinois will go toward making life better for them and their families,” Meeks said.

Meeks said education should receive a $6 billion increase in next year’s state budget, but he is not demanding a tax hike to pay for it.

“I never said the governor had to rescind his no-tax pledge,” Meeks said. “I said the governor should come up with a four-year plan for how education is going to be funded.”

He said the huge increase in education funding could be accomplished without a tax hike but declined to say how.

“In that I’m not the governor at this moment, it’s not for me to have to come up with it,” he said.

The Legislative Black Caucus has called on Blagojevich to rescind the no-tax pledge because it prevents a tax swap in which income taxes are raised and property taxes lowered to boost money for education.

Kent Redfield, a political science professor at the University of Illinois in Springfield, said Meeks’ potential candidacy has “serious implications” for the governor’s race.

“If (Meeks) chooses to do it, gets over the procedural hurdles and gets on the ballot, then being an African-American from the city of Chicago and having a large congregation in terms of his church … any Democratic candidate that has that opposition would have serious implications because a part of the base of the Democratic Party in the statewide election in Illinois is the city of Chicago,” Redfield said.

If Meeks runs for governor, Redfield added, it will by difficult for him to win the election. However, he said: “I think he could clearly tip the race to (Republican Judy Baar) Topinka. He would take more votes away from Blagojevich than he would from Topinka within the city of Chicago.

“We’re in a game of chicken here because it’s not clear that if the resolve of the Meeks candidacy is to elect a Republican governor. I’m not sure that would advance Senator Meeks’ policy agenda.”

Doug Scofield, a spokesman for the Blagojevich campaign, said the governor and Meeks, who usually votes with Democrats, are “allies.”

“They have common goals and have generally worked together very well, and they’ll continue to do so,” Scofield said. “Senator Meeks will have to make his decision on his own, but the governor respects him, likes him and looks forward to continuing to work with him.”

Meanwhile, Roger Germann, spokesman for Topinka, who is state treasurer, said her campaign is closely “watching what Senator Meeks is going to decide to do” and will continue to campaign the same way as prior to Meeks’ announcement.

On Thursday, Blagojevich asked Topinka to have 10 debates with him before Nov. 7. Germann said Topinka is willing to spar with Blagojevich, so long as the debates include Meeks, who has “put together a very serious consideration toward running for governor.”

When asked whether Blagojevich will extend the debate offer to Meeks, Scofield said it is “much too early to even think about that.”

“We haven’t heard much from Judy Baar Topinka, unfortunately,” Scofield said. “We hope she’ll accept it.”

And more on this from Ballot Access News:

Illinois State Senator James Meeks said over the weekend that he will attempt to create a new party, and be its gubernatorial candidate, this year. He is not only a State Senator, but pastor of Chicago’s Salem Baptist Church, which has 26,000 members. When he was elected to the State Senate in 2002, he won as the nominee of the Honesty and Integrity Party, so presumably that would be the name of his party. However, he is also running for re-election to the State Senate as a Democrat. If he goes ahead with his gubernatorial run, he would need to withdraw from his re-election race. Petitioning for third party petitions starts on March 28. Other petitions that will be circulating starting that day are the Green and Constitution Party statewide petitions.

2 Responses to “Another State Senator for Governor”

  1. Citizens For A Better Veterans Home Says:

    Sunday lunch with… Sen. James Meeks

    March 26, 2006

    BY DEBRA PICKETT SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
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    “I like this place because it’s nostalgic,” state Sen. James Meeks (I-Chicago) says as he settles into a dark, undersized booth at Miller’s Pub on South Wabash. “It’s not a new, trendy place.”

    Meeks, dressed in a sharp pin-striped suit, orders a virgin pina colada and looks over the menu.

    It’s the day before the primary election, and Meeks, who is running unopposed for the Democratic Party nomination for the Senate seat he currently holds as an independent, seems to have all the time in the world. His fancy cell phone, with the wireless earpiece, has been switched to “silent” and stashed away. The coterie of aides and staff members that often surrounds him is nowhere to be seen.

    But this low-key arrival belies Meeks’ current state of mind. He is not focused on his slam-dunk chances of re-election.

    He is thinking, in fact, about entering a completely different electoral contest, one that could change the face of Illinois politics for years to come.

    Meeks, 49, the powerfully connected pastor of the South Side’s 20,000-member Salem Baptist Church, is planning to run for governor.

    He’s ready to start circulating petitions that will put his name on the ballot as an independent candidate.

    “On March 28, I can start putting petitions on the street,” Meeks says. “And, so far, I’ve had nothing to deter me from putting petitions on the street on March 28.”

    State election law makes Tuesday the first day when third-party candidates such as Meeks can begin circulating nominating petitions for the fall election. He needs a minimum of 25,000 signatures by June 26 and must run with an entire slate of candidates for lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller and treasurer.

    Theme: ‘At the moral center’

    Saying that Gov. Blagojevich and the state’s Democratic-controlled House and Senate are “morally wrong” for having failed to deliver school funding changes and other reforms important to the African-American community, Meeks says he views his candidacy as a way to bring the black vote, often taken for granted by Democrats, into focus as an important “swing” constituency.

    “Not one time has the governor called together African-American leaders and said, ‘What do you need?’ ” Meeks says, and adds that, unless this happens soon, he will go forward with his gubernatorial bid.

    Meeks can hedge his bets until the “point of no return” on June 26, when he would surrender his Senate seat in order to be placed on the November ballot as an independent candidate for governor.

    From then on, he says, he would launch a statewide campaign with a “moral center” theme.

    “You’ll have Judy Baar Topinka, who believes in abortion and gay rights . . . and Rod Blagojevich, who believes in abortion and gay rights,” says Meeks, who opposes both. “Theologically, politically, for the white conservative voter, I’m their guy. I have their philosophy.”

    Meeks, who grew up in Englewood and was president of the Harper High School class of 1974, says his understanding of Illinois politics has changed enormously—“it’s night and day”—since he defeated Democrat William Shaw in 2002 in the state’s 15th senatorial district.

    “Power concedes nothing without a demand,” he says, quoting Frederick Douglass. “And the African-American constituency, we have not placed a demand on the Democratic Party.”

    Meeks cites the $40 million World Shooting Complex in downstate Sparta as an example of a project that received state funds because its supporters are perceived to be swing voters.

    “Three hundred million dollars went to Republican pet projects to get their support on the budget,” he says, after offering a blessing over our meals. “Nine million dollars went to a meth clinic in Southern Illinois. But we’ve got crack, cocaine and heroin on the North and West Sides. Where are those clinics?”

    Does he really want to be gov?

    If lawmakers in the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, which Meeks chairs, could band together and similarly hold out on supporting the state budget until their initiatives were funded, Meeks says, spending priorities would look radically different.

    I ask if he thinks this could actually happen.

    He nods enthusiastically and says, between bites of Miller’s famous baby-back ribs, “I hope to be the No. 1 cat that’s making it happen.”

    So, is all this talk about a gubernatorial run just so much posturing for power in upcoming budget negotiations? I ask Meeks if he really wants to be governor.

    “I want all people in the state of Illinois to be equally represented,” he says.

    When I point out that this is not exactly an answer to a basic yes-or-no question, he responds by repeating it.

    I ask if he’s really prepared for the possibility of being a spoiler in the November election, drawing enough votes away from Gov. Blagojevich to propel Judy Baar Topinka to victory.

    “If the Democratic Party chooses to ignore its base,” he says, “that’s not me.”

    Meeks says he likes Blagojevich, whom he has hosted at Salem Baptist many times, and considers him a personal friend.

    “It’s not this administration only,” Meeks says, describing the way he believes African-American voters have been taken for granted, “It’s a national strategy. The blacks are put in the win column. So my new question is why shouldn’t African-Americans nationwide become a swing vote? Why not put ourselves in that position?”

    There is, Meeks says, a viable place for African-Americans, “at the moral center” of the American electorate.

    Sun-Times Blogs: Visit Debra Pickett’s blog.

  2. Citizens For A Better Veterans Home Says:

    MORE BACK GROUND

    Attorney: Officer Followed Policy In Traffic Stop
    Rev. James Meeks Says He Was A Victim Of Racial Profiling

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    (AP) CHICAGO An attorney for a police sergeant accused of racial profiling during a traffic stop of a black state senator says the officer followed the law during the incident.

    State Senator James Meeks says a white Chicago police officer stuck a gun in his face and repeatedly shouted at him to get back in his car during the traffic stop in July.

    The attorney says the sergeant remains on the job while internal affairs investigates.

    Police union officials say the incident has been unfairly characterized in the press.

    Meeks said today that he’d rather focus on statewide reforms to root out racial profiling, rather than his own incident. He’s calling for cameras inside squad cars and a statewide code of conduct for both officers and motorists to follow during traffic stops.

    (© 2005 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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