Biss Drops Ramirez-Rosa From Ticket in Bid for Illinois Governor

State Sen. Daniel Biss dropped Chicago Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa as his running mate in his bid to be the Democratic candidate for Illinois governor Wednesday. 

"Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and I have reached a difficult decision about our ticket. As of today, I’ll be moving forward with a new running mate," Biss said in a statement announcing the decision less than a week after revealing Ramirez-Rosa as his choice for lieutenant governor.

The change came after backlash - including a lost endorsement - over Ramirez-Rosa's support of the Palestinian-led "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions" movement calling for boycotts of companies that do business with Israel.

"Growing up with an Israeli mother, grandparents who survived the Holocaust, and great-grandparents who did not survive, issues related to the safety and security of the Jewish people are deeply personal to me," Biss' statement reads.

"I strongly support a two-state solution. I support Israel’s right to exist, and I support Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. I also care deeply about justice for Palestinians, and believe that a vision for the Middle East must include political and economic freedom for Palestinians," he continued. "That's why I oppose the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or BDS, as I believe it moves us further away from a peaceful solution."

Biss said that Ramirez-Rosa indicated in his interview prior to selection that he opposed BDS, but "after much discussion, it’s become clear that Carlos’ position has changed."

"While I respect his right to come to his own conclusions on the issue, it simply wasn't the understanding we shared when I asked him to join the ticket," Biss added, calling the change "the right decision."

Congressman Brad Schneider withdrew his support for Biss' campaign Sunday, citing concerns about Ramirez-Rosa's "past comments about the United States support of our ally Israel, and his affiliation with a group that is an outspoken supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel."

The group Schneider was referring to is the Democratic Socialists of America, a political activism organization that is, according to its website, the largest socialist organization in the country. 

At the DSA's August convention in Chicago, the organization passed a resolution in support of BDS. Ramirez-Rosa joined the DSA in March 2017, telling the Chicago Reader in an interview that Sen. Bernie Sanders - for whom the Chicago alderman was a delegate at the 2016 Democratic National Convention - opened the door for him.

"I said, if someone could run for president of the United States and say 'I'm a democratic socialist,' then, hell, I can come out of the closet. I've come out of the closet before," Ramirez-Rosa told the Reader.

Representing the 35th Ward on the Northwest Side, Ramirez-Rosa is the first openly gay Latino to serve on Chicago's City Council. First elected in 2015 at the age of 26, he is also the youngest current alderman and one of the youngest ever elected in Chicago.

As a former community organizer with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Ramirez-Rosa has made issues surrounding immigration, as well as higher taxes on the wealthy, central to his own platform.

Biss, a Democrat from Evanston, has similarly championed more liberal policies – most recently voting against the Illinois school funding reform plan because of its union-opposed tuition tax credit program that he said crossed a "red line" of sending "public dollars to private schools," setting a "dangerous precedent."

In a statement, Ramirez-Rosa said he was "honored" to have been chosen as Biss' running mate and that they would both separately continue to champion progressive causes. 

"While I was honored to be chosen as Senator Daniel Biss’ gubernatorial running mate, it became clear over the past few days that while we share a total commitment to peace, security, and statehood for the Israeli and Palestinian people, and both oppose pursuing BDS at the state level, the difference of opinion we have on the role the BDS movement plays at the federal level would make it impossible to continue moving forward as a ticket," Ramirez-Rosa said.

"I was asked to join the ticket to even more strongly advocate for the critical issues facing this state, such as medicare for all, a $15 living wage today, affordable childcare, and free college tuition. While I am no longer part of the ticket, I have every confidence that Senator Biss and I, in our different roles, will continue to be strong advocates for these progressive issues," his statement concluded.

Sources said Biss wanted Ramirez-Rosa to change his position on BDS entirely, and while those close to the alderman said he was open to a dialogue, Biss wanted him to oppose the movement all together, which Ramirez-Rosa refused to do. 

After several days of negotiations, sources said Biss chose to remove Ramirez-Rosa from his campaign by telephone late Wednesday afternoon. 

It was not immediately clear who Biss would choose to replace him, though candidates were required to file official paperwork with the Illinois State Board of Elections this week to begin circulating petitions, leaving little time to waste in selecting another running mate. 

First elected to the legislature in 2010, Biss said when he announced his campaign that he hoped to create a "movement of the people to overcome the power of money and the machine" – a progressive message he has continually pushed throughout the lead-up to the March 2018 primary.

The former University of Chicago mathematics professor's platform has drawn comparisons to that of Ald. Ameya Pawar, another left-leaning Chicago City Council member who is also in the running for governor. Pawar selected the mayor of Cairo in southern Illinois, Tyrone Coleman, as his running mate earlier this month.

Biss and Pawar are among eight candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to take on incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner, a first-term Republican.

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