Activists cheer election results

Forward Illinois says the election wasn’t partisan so much as it showed widespread appeal for a progressive agenda

 Jennifer Welch of Planned Parenthood Illinois, Jack Darin of Sierra Club Illinois, and Mike Ziri of Equality Illinois (from left, with Darin at podium) announce the Forward Illinois launch last month. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Jennifer Welch of Planned Parenthood Illinois, Jack Darin of Sierra Club Illinois, and Mike Ziri of Equality Illinois (from left, with Darin at podium) announce the Forward Illinois launch last month. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

Activists cheered Tuesday’s election results across Illinois.

Forward Illinois, an amalgamation of interest groups across the state, said the results weren’t partisan so much as they showed widespread appeal for a progressive agenda.

“Illinois voted today for a bold, inspiring agenda to move Illinois forward,” said Kady McFadden, deputy director of Sierra Club Illinois, in a statement distributed Wednesday. “Candidates that took bold positions carried the day, and are now poised to move Illinois to a much brighter future that lifts up all our communities. We congratulate them, and are committed to advocating for this agenda alongside them as united progressives with the full force of our member-driven organizations.”

Forward Illinois is an umbrella group formed a month before the midterm elections comprising Sierra Club Illinois, Planned Parenthood Illinois, the Service Employees International Union, Equality Illinois, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, Chicago Votes, Citizen Action/Illinois, and the the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881.

Its 10-point agenda included a $15 minimum wage, guaranteed reproductive rights, environmental justice, criminal-justice reform, universal health care, quality eduction, a graduated income tax, ending immigrant deportations, and licensing gun stores — many of the issues mentioned by Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker at the end of his victory speech Tuesday night. Forward Illinois has maintained that polls show a majority of Illinois voters support that agenda.

“Our coalition is committed to continue working together on behalf of this agenda, as we all are committed to ensuring a brighter future for Illinois,” said Beniamino Capellupo, executive director of SEIU’s Illinois Council. “We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and work with the new administration to enact these smart, forward-looking policies and we’re ready to hold those policymakers who stand in the way of progress accountable.”

Planned Parenthood Illinois Action President Jennifer Welch said Pritzker’s election was critical “with the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court,” adding, “It is more critical than ever that Illinois is led by a governor who is unequivocal in his support of reproductive rights. The governor-elect’s commitment to reproductive freedom and the health care provided by Planned Parenthood has been steadfast for decades. J.B. Pritzker will protect Illinois as an oasis for reproductive health care, not only for Illinoisans, but for all those people in surrounding states who must travel to receive the care they need.”

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“It is more critical than ever that Illinois is led by a governor who is unequivocal in his support of reproductive rights.”

Jennifer Welch of Planned Parenthood Illinois Action

Welch also applauded the election of state Sen. Kwame Raoul as attorney general, saying, “Illinois voters made the right choice in electing Kwame Raoul who has been a longtime champion for reproductive health and rights. As a state senator he voted to protect access to birth control and cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood health centers. And, he does not believe politicians should interfere with personal health decisions.”

Again, she emphasized the importance given the national political environment, calling attorneys general “the last line of defense against the Trump-Pence administration.”

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees local Council 31 also greeted Pritzker’s election, with harsh words for outgoing Gov. Bruce Rauner, who initiated the Janus suit against the union and so-called fair-share fees.

“Illinois voters did more than defeat Bruce Rauner and end his four years of conflict and failure,” said AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch. “Voters across the state came together to support working people and to repudiate not just Rauner personally but his mean-spirited, anti-worker, anti-union agenda.”