Former Math Professor Announces Run for Governor

Biss is a current Illinois state senator.

By Max Fennell-Chametzky, Contributor

A former assistant professor of mathematics at the University, and current Illinois state senator, is running for Governor of Illinois in the 2018 election.

Daniel Biss, who gave a talk at the University on his path from professor to politician last fall, announced his candidacy as a Democrat in the gubernatorial election last week. He will first have to face other Democratic candidates in a primary, before being able to run against incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner in a general election.

“Everywhere in Illinois, people are hungry to be a part of taking our state back, taking it back from the money and the machine that have gotten us in this situation…. I felt like I had to run for governor to be a part of that movement,” Biss said to WGN-TV.

Biss taught mathematics at the University for almost six years, before arriving at politics as a more fulfilling career path.

Biss is not the first University faculty member to turn to the political life: others include former political science professor Charles Merriam, former economics professor Paul Douglas, and former president Barack Obama.

Initially, Biss ran for, and lost, the 2008 Illinois House 17th District election. However, he persevered and ran again in 2010, this time winning the seat. Not long after, Biss ran for the Ninth District Illinois State Senate in 2012, winning with over 66 percent of the vote.

Biss’s campaign website describes his purpose as “making a movement more powerful than money and the machine” and making politics and the election “about us.” The site refers to his time as assistant professor as a testament to his ability to find solutions to “complex problems.” It also notes that he brings the “pragmatism of a math professor” to “everything he does.”

Some students on the University’s campus have expressed support for Biss in the gubernatorial election. Former Student Government president Tyler Kissinger, for example, who recently joined the Democratic Socialists of America, took to Facebook to voice his thoughts on the Biss candidacy.

“There is no such thing as a savior candidate, but there is such thing as hope,” Kissinger wrote. “Daniel Biss running for governor gives me some hope—not unlike the hope I felt from Bernie Sanders' campaign—that we can build a better political system in our state and take back power from those who don't want us to have any.”

Currently, Biss is fighting to pass Senate Bill 982, which would block President Donald Trump from appearing on the 2020 presidential ballot in Illinois unless he releases his tax returns.  

Other declared candidates for the 2018 Democratic race include Madison County Regional Superintendent of Schools Bob Daiber, former Chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chris Kennedy, civil engineer and business owner Alex Paterakis, and Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar.