BLOOMINGTON — Daniel Biss says he is more certain than ever he could be elected governor.
"We've got a lot of work to do, but we're on just the right path," he said after a We Ask America poll showed Wednesday he's pulled into a clear second place in the Democratic primary race behind Hyatt hotels heir J.B. Pritzker.
"If Donald Trump weren't the president, and Bruce Rauner weren't the governor, I think this campaign wouldn't have a shot," Biss added. "But people see these two guys are not working for us and instinctively understand copying that strategy is not automatically a path to success."
Biss, a seven-year state senator from Evanston, said he hopes to keep building momentum on the way to a March 20 win in the primary and a Nov. 6 general election victory over the Republican Rauner.
To that end, Biss is promoting his middle-class background, experience in Springfield — including working with House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago — and a progressive agenda that will help more Illinoisans succeed, he told The Pantagraph Editorial Board during a meeting Thursday in Bloomington.
At the top of his priority list is installing a progressive income tax — one that makes residents pay a greater percentage if they make more. That's a stated position of every Democrat in the primary, but Biss said it's critical that it be their No. 1 goal to get through a tough legislative process to amend the state contitution.
"I do believe that for all we do wrong in Illinois, and there's a lot, the one fundamental original sin in our budgeting, that's different than other states and has held us back ... is the constitutional flat tax provision," he said.
Biss hopes to use the resulting revenue in areas where he said Illinois has struggled, including K-12 education, higher education and infrastructure.
"The issue's not that we don't have the money to solve problems. The issue is the money's going somewhere else because of who's making the decisions, and this is a campaign about taking power back for the rest of us," he said.
Biss frequently criticized Pritzker during the meeting, calling him "Madigan's hand-picked candidate" and pointing to his efforts to avoid paying taxes. Biss defended his own record of both working with and standing up to the speaker.
"The amount of opportunity that Rauner has to attack Pritzker is, frankly, flabbergasting," Biss said. "(Rauner) wants to have an ugly, nasty ... campaign that will be dispiriting to the entire state, and he wants to run against Madigan's candidate who has ties to (former Gov.) Rod Blagojevich."
Biss also had a campaign event Thursday at Illinois State University in Normal.
Other candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor are businessman Chris Kennedy, school Superintendent Bob Daiber, activist Tio Hardiman and physician Robert Marshall.