Today at 10am Jacob Meister announced that he is backing his opponent, banking scion and front-runner Alexi Giannoulias, for the Democratic nomination for United States Senator from Illinois, effectively ending his historic run as the first visible openly gay Senate candidate from the state.
In front of union members and elected officials gathered at Teamsters 705 in Chicago, Jacob thanked his supporters and endorsed his one-time foe. According to Meister, Giannoulias has pledged to adopt Jacob's well-received 20/20 legislative policy agenda whole-cloth; which includes micro-grants as part of educational reform, high-speed rail investment as part of a green industry jobs plan and a regulatory overhaul that Jacob had hoped would take power away from big banking conglomerates and place it into the hands of small businesses.
"Alexi is adopting the 20/20 vision," Meister said to the crowd before announcing that he was "putting political ambitions aside and do what's right for the party."
In addition to taking up Meister's jobs-focused 20/20 vision, Meister announced that Giannoulias contacted him to pledge that he was going to take up Jacob's LGBT agenda in Washington DC as well. Giannoulias--who last year announced early in the campaign that his support of LGBT equality includes not only gender-inclusive employment non-discrimination, but marriage equality as well--promised Jacob's supporters that he would burn political capital to push immediately to pass pro-LGBT bills if he's elected to President Obama's former seat later this year.
Giannoulias will certainly welcome this announcement as his campaign has been subject to attack lately. The imminent collapse of the Giannoulias' family business, Broadway Bank, has forced the company to enter into a consent order with the FDIC. Alexi Giannoulias, who is now the Illinois State Treasurer, was previously senior loan officer of his family's company, prompting another Senate nomination opponent, David Hoffman, to lob strong accusations of liability. Fellow candidate and Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson has called on Giannoulias to drop out of the race.
Meister has expressed his differences with Giannoulias in the past--certainly questioning his political motives for running after only just landing the Treasurer spot--but has had even more conflict with David Hoffman throughout the campaign, whom Meister accused of homophobia and trying to use Jacob's sexuality against him. Hoffman, however, joined Giannoulias two weeks ago at a "moderated discussion" on Chicago Tonight in endorsing full marriage equality. Cheryle Jackson, however, took a 'separate but equal' stance and--while she supports repealing "Don't Ask-Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act--she refused to back equal marriage over civil unions.
Meanwhile, Meister hinted at the post-campaign work to be done with a "civil rights agenda that promotes policies of equality" one that promotes laws that makes no person discriminated for skin color or orientation."
Meister hints that Giannoulias and he are on the same page when it comes to equal rights "Democracy that discriminates against one, discriminates against all," the now former-candidate said in a press release. Jacob is confident that in Alexi he's found a "new ally in the struggle for equality for all Americans."
Giannoulias leads in the polls by ten points over both Hoffman and Jackson, and most polls also put him ahead of GOP front-runner, LGBT-friendly Illinois representative Mark Kirk. Poll numbers have been shifting as of late since the breaking of the Broadway Bank scandal, and there is no telling if the situation may reverse now that Giannoulias is facing heat.
As for Meister, his campaign organization continues to hint at continued work in the area of civil rights now that he's no longer considered a candidate. The campaign organization has made a significant investment in some of the oft-ignored metropolitan enclaves outside of the popular Chicagoland area, and Meister has picked up some serious name recognition and respect around the state.
The unlikeliest of campaigns turned into a legitimate and respectable effort which hasn't gone unnoticed. I hope that Meister will continue this momentum post-campaign and invest it in some much-needed revitalization of the state-wide LGBT activist infrastructure.