Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Tio Hardiman, Ex-Candidate for Illinois Governor, Teases a U.S. Senate Run

The anti-violence activist plans to "give Mark Kirk the biggest run of his life"

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    Hardiman tweeted that he may be interested in a Senate run.

    Tio Hardiman, who attempted a run for Illinois governor this year, tells Ward Room he is making a play for U.S. Senate.

    The Illinois anti-violence activist told Ward Room on Thursday he is forming an "exploratory committee" to measure his chances of defeating Republican Sen. Mark Kirk on the Democratic ticket in 2016.

    "I plan to run without a doubt," said Hardiman. "I plan to give Mark Kirk the biggest run of his life."

    Earlier this year, Hardiman entered the gubernatorial race in a long-shot effort to nab the nomination away from inbumbent Pat Quinn. But now, he observed, "I have statewide name recognition and (voters) know who I am and what I stand for." People are taking him seriously, he added.

    Hardiman blasted Kirk as "out of touch with the ordinary people here in Illinois" and knocked him for opposing a $10 federal increase in the minimum wage. He said believes he can raise the money to trounce the junior GOP senator and former U.S Rep. for the state's 10th congressional district.

    Hardiman said he would campaign on platforms including immigration reform, gun control, increasing funding for domestic violence programs and "ending the culture of corruption in politics," for which he proposed that all lawmakers' meetings be videotaped. He said he plans to launch a speaking tour entitled "Let's Straighten Out America," in July.

    Hardiman took to Twitter on Tuesday to post a picture of himself running alongside the caption: "Time to get in shape for a possible run for U.S. Senate."

    "I ran a mile and a half," said Hardiman, adding that he plans to run a few miles each week in order to rebound, "mentally and physically."

    Choosing the image for a caption contest, Rich Miller over at Capitol Fax wrote that Hardiman "has more delusions of grandeur." The comments were equally snarky, featuring suggested captions such as "Time to get in shape for an inevitable loss for U.S. Senate" and "Next step: a short-term job with a hedge fund biggie in Chicago."

    Back in March, Hardiman was still challenging Gov. Quinn with slim odds in his favor. But what he lacked in voter support, he more than made up for in confidence.

    "Once we win the primary, the Democrats will put $20 million into my campaign," he told the Chicago Reader at the time. "(Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce) Rauner will not survive our debate. Trust me—he'll walk away from me. I'm an outspoken guy. When people talk about Tio, they say I'm a champion for the people. I'm like the Nelson Mandela of Illinois."

    Hardiman told Ward Room he aims to run for U.S. president "maybe down the road," declaring: "I want people here in Illinois to know that I'm not going anywhere."