Tio Hardiman has ‘no chance’ of winning Illinois governor’s race, according to political insiders

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CHICAGO—Illinois’ gubernatorial race has amped up months ahead of the primary elections, a stage former CeaseFire Illinois director Tio Hardiman has chosen to make his “comeback” after a disgraceful fall involving a domestic violence charge.

A product of the Henry Horner Housing Projects in Chicago, Hardiman, 50, grew up witnessing Chicago’s violence epidemic firsthand, his biography says, and committed himself to helping end the issue in his city.

Throughout his career, he’s organized more than 100 block clubs aimed at public safety and held several leadership positions, including with Chicago’s Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program. Hardiman helped CeaseFire Illinois, an organization treating violence as a public health issue, gain notoriety by creating the Violence Interrupter program and securing funding from the state to significantly expand the organization’s reach.

“He is a true community advocate. He is a true grassroots man,” said Laura S. Washington, columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and political analyst for ABC7 Chicago.

His push to become the first African-American governor in Illinois brings something different to the the gubernatorial race that incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn and competitor former White House Chief of Staff and banker Bill Daley don’t, Washington said. “It’s important to have his voice in the conversation to talk about some of the issues that might not be on the table otherwise: violence, education, some of the other issues that other candidates may not focus on.”

At a press conference Saturday, Hardiman officially announced his candidacy and an 11-point plan, saying, “I just want to let everybody in Illinois know that I’m dead serious about running for governor. I didn’t make this decision overnight. There’s a lot of good work that I’ve done as a community activist.”

Hardiman’s efforts at the grassroots level are undeniable, but with no legislative or policy experience, and a domestic violence controversy looming over his head, Washington and Dick Simpson, Political Science chair at the University of Illinois—Chicago say he has no chance of repeating the same statewide success that other black officials like now-President and former Illinois Senator Barack Obama or former Senator turned Mayoral candidate Carol Moseley Braun have.

“He’s simply not a credible candidate. You don’t begin by running for Governor and working your way down any way that you would begin as working for president and working your way down,” Simpson said.

In May, Hardiman was arrested and charged with misdemeanor domestic battery after his wife reported that he kicked and punched her. He’s denied the allegations, which were dropped earlier this month along with an order of protection after his wife said she loves her husband and desires to work on their marriage.

“That is going to cast a shadow over his campaign,” Washington said, adding that voters haven’t been pleased with Illinois’ recent history of high-profile elected officials behaving badly. “I think voters have a bad taste in their mouth about any hint of personal misconduct of being involved in the criminal justice system, so I think those are going to make things difficult for him, as well.”

Meanwhile, both political experts say possible third candidate and rising black political star State Sen. Kwame Raoul, would have a better chance of nabbing the coveted Democratic primary, although not enough of what he needs to win.

Raoul has the legislative and policy experience. The 48-year-old who eventually landed into Obama’s former Senate seat is heading the Illinois General Assembly’s special pension conference committee, a group charged with finding a solution to Illinois’ worst ever-financial crisis.

He’s also forged relationships with other elected officials whose help he would need to develop an organization, raise money and campaign, Washington said. “It’s very hard for folks who aren’t in office to acquire office, because it’s kind of a closed club and elected officials tend to support each other as opposed to independent outsiders who’ve never run for office. So he’s got that basic advantage, and he’s making a name for himself.”

Raoul’s challenge, Washington said, is that he doesn’t have an experienced statewide organization, he doesn’t have enough money to campaign and is simply not well known enough. While he now has about $500,000 in his campaign fund, he would need about $20 million to successfully wage a serious campaign, Simpson said. “He’s a serious candidate, unlike Hardiman, if he can put together the campaign organization.”

Furthermore, according to Washington, Raoul’s very presence complicates things for the incumbent. Quinn, who has traditionally garnered a large amount of support from African-Americans, has the advantage of incumbency, “which means he can throw around a lot of favors, around a lot of government funds, a lot of initiatives to curry favor with voters,” Washington said. But he risks losing his African-American votes to Raoul.

“Kwame Raoul could very easily pull a significant amount of [African-American votes] of that away from [Quinn], and without that base he can’t get nominated,” Washington told theGrio.

Simpson agreed, saying, “If he entered the race, he might well throw the election to [Bill] Daley.” Kwame Raoul—he’s a serious candidate, unlike Hardiman. If he can put together the campaign organization.”

Raoul has vowed to put off a decision of whether or not he’s throwing his hat into the ring until his special committee can hammer out a solution to the state’s financial crisis. “I give myself 10 days or so to make up my mind,” Raoul said, the Sun-Times reported Sunday. “This is something that’s spiraling out of my control. I don’t think it does the party or the state any good to let it linger very long.”

Renita D. Young is a Chicago-based multimedia reporter. Follow her on Twitter @RenitaDYoung.