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Daniel Biss's day job is teaching topology at the University of Chicago. He's also running for the Democratic nomination for state representative in the 17th District. The district, located just west and north of Evanston, went 59 percent for John Kerry in 2004; the seat is now held by moderate Republican Elizabeth Coulson.
What makes Biss different from other entry-level wannabes is that he made the rounds at Yearly Kos last week, and he's been a presence on ActBlue.com, the PAC billing itself as the "online clearinghouse for Democratic action." Since making an impression on the Kossacks, Biss has raised $31,287 from 422 donors on ActBlue.com, placing his campaign second only to John Edwards' presidential campaign's in fund-raising on that site last week [SEE CLARIFICATION IN COMMENTS] -- and a couple orders of magnitude ahead of any Illinois state-level candidate on the site. (Edwards picked up $3.6 million, third-place finisher Rick Noriega, who's running for US senator in Texas, $16,000.) More to the point, this is a significant chunk of change for a candidate running in a small suburban district.
In a phone interview Biss told me he doesn't support Governor Rod Blagojevich's gross receipts tax proposal. Although he says education, transit, and health care need more money, he wouldn't support a tax increase without serious tightening of ethics laws to make sure the money goes where it's supposed to, significant additional tightening of corporate tax loopholes, and provisions like enlarged personal exemptions and increased earned income tax credit to make sure that the burden falls more on those who can afford it.
He thinks netroots groups like ActBlue are a way for left-wingers to do now what right-wingers did after 1964 -- organize locally to change the pattern of politics in the US from the bottom up. Here's his interview at Firedoglake: "I keep coming back to etymology: progressives like progress, which means that we’re focused on the future. Believing in a better future has to also mean planning for and making a better future. And I find it flabbergasting how little of that goes on in our politics today."