As the Democratic field for the 2018 gubernatorial election continues to take shape, a little-known candidate from Chicago’s northern suburbs has already thrown his hat in the ring.
Alex Paterakis, a 29-year-old Skokie native, said he decided to run for governor in October as a response to the nation’s increasingly polarized political landscape.
“I was getting sick of how politics were being done, how things were being run, partisan politics being everyone against everyone else with no one actually listening to other people’s opinions,” Paterakis told Ward Room Tuesday.
The political newcomer is campaigning on a progressive platform that includes a minimum wage hike, marijuana legalization, and an agenda to oppose President Donald Trump. Paterakis, who owns a pair of small online retail businesses, hopes his campaign will appeal to middle class Illinoisans.
“I think people are really reflecting the message, which a lot of Democrats have forgotten, which is the middle class,” Paterakis said. “They lost the middle class to Donald Trump.”
There’s some indication that the message is resonating. The Illinois Democratic County Chairman’s Association announced the results Monday of their online gubernatorial straw poll. Paterakis received 39 votes as a write-in candidate. Other write-in choices included former Gov. Pat Quinn, who tallied 45 votes, and Sen. Dick Durbin, who received 41 votes.
State Sen. Daniel Biss, a prospective candidate, ultimately won the straw poll, earning a quarter of the 5,352 votes. Ald. Ameya Pawar, who has already declared his candidacy in the race, placed second with 15 percent of the vote.
Nonetheless, Paterakis likely faces an uphill battle in terms of fundraising. He has self-funded so far, raising about $10,000 to date.
Paterakis is now gearing up to challenge a Democratic field that could reportedly include deep-pocketed Democrats, like businessman Chris Kennedy and billionaire J.B. Pritzker, not to mention Gov. Bruce Rauner, who dumped $50 million into his own campaign fund last month.
Despite backing some elements of Rauner’s agenda, like term limits and a property tax freeze, Paterakis criticized the governor for touting himself as an expert negotiator.
"He’s called CPS workers incompetent,” Paterakis said. “He’s called Mike Madigan corrupt.”
"They’re not going to be willing to work with you. So his tag of expert negotiator was a fallacy,” he added.
Paterakis compared Rauner’s policies to states with Right-to-work laws, where labor employees aren’t required to join unions. Paterakis, whose grandfathers were union members, claimed unions "drive wages up for other individuals in the state."
“Bruce Rauner’s just been ineffective in the fact that he’s been heart-strong in some of his policies that ultimately do not reflect the values of Illinois,” he said. “Even though I don’t agree with everything Mike Madigan has done in his career, you know he still served the state and I think he’s still trying to protect the worker, which Bruce Rauner is not.”
To grow Illinois manufacturing jobs, Paterakis proposes spending reforms to control manufacturers’ overall tax burden, as well as sales tax reform and a property tax freeze. He claimed the state's increasing tax rates are responsible in part for its decreasing population.
"If you keep raising taxes like they're doing, there's not going to be anyone left here to tax," Paterakis said. "And your revenues significantly decrease from things like that."