Mayoral candidates Lori Keenan and Sebastian Nalls grill Daniel Biss’ legislative record in debate


Daily file illustration by Jacob Fulton

The three Evanston mayoral candidates faced off in a virtual debate Tuesday night. Daniel Biss, who has secured endorsements from seven of nine City Council members, defended his record as a state legislator.

Jason Beeferman, Reporter

Former state Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) who has endorsements from seven out of nine City Council members, was grilled by his opponents, Evanston community activist Lori Keenan and 20-year old Evanston Township High School graduate Sebastian Nalls in a virtual debate Tuesday night.

Both Nalls and Keenan questioned Biss’ record as an Illinois state legislator at the debate, hosted by Evanston Live TV, and Keenan said she viewed her lack of City Council endorsements as an advantage. In response, Biss said his opponents’ attacks on his record are “what happens when you’re willing to take on tough issues.”

“I am proud not to be supported by seven of the nine City Council members, because I think Evanston needs a change,” Keenan said. “I think that’s what the people of Evanston are begging for.”

Keenan, a candidate who brands herself as a “grassroots activist,” is a regular attendee of city government meetings. She said her experience with Evanston issues sets her apart from the other candidates.

“I have worked hard for this community, and I have shown up and spoken up,” Keenan said. “I’ve got a track record of success in town, and I’d like to continue that in a position where I can really effect a change more.”

Nalls, a political science and accounting student at Purdue University, also stressed his deep roots to Evanston, repeatedly identifying himself as a “product of Evanston.”

Nalls said one of his solutions to the current $8 million city budget shortfall would be to open negotiations with Northwestern University with the goal of getting the University to pay more to the city. Currently, the University is exempt from paying property taxes, an issue Nalls, as well as many residents, takes issue with.

At one point in the debate, Nalls called into question Biss’ role in passing legislation that cut $1.6 billion dollars to Medicaid, as well as his attempt to reduce pension benefits that was ultimately ruled unconstitutional. Nalls said Biss was “sacrificing progressive values in the name of political expediency.”

“We need an individual who’s going to come into Evanston with fresh, invigorating ideas of how to raise revenue without hurting the everyday person,” Nalls said.

In response to Nalls’ claims, Biss said he was proud of his legislative record in Springfield, and that his legislation continually aligned with progressive values.

Biss, who said he has helped to pass almost 100 laws, cited his work in crafting state legislation that eliminated tax loopholes for hedge funds. He said the legislation was one example of “innovating” to find “fair ways to tax people who are wealthy.”

“I think this community right now is hungry for bold, dramatic action on things that will be difficult and controversial to accomplish,” Biss said. “I’m the person whose field has a record of working in government to get things done that other folks thought would be impossible. That record will serve me well during the bold progressive transformational change that our city needs.”

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