Two days before the primary elections, openly gay Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jacob Meister officially withdrew and threw his support behind front-runner Alexi Giannoulias. Windy City Times talked with Meister about leaving the campaign trail and running for office in the future.
Windy City Times: This development is a bit surprising.
Jacob Meister: It's about party unity. There's little doubt that, come [ Feb. 3 ] , Alexi is going to be the nominee. And I've gotten repeated and very in-depth assurances from him about his dedication to the LGBT principles, and that he is willing to "burn political capital" to move the agenda forward. And he has guaranteed that he is going to work with me, and he is going to adopt my policy agenda.
WCT: How difficult a decision was this?
Jacob Meister: It was extremely difficult. I put months of time, money and energy into this race. For six months, I poured my heart into a campaign. My campaign was about a lot of LGBT issues; they were very important to me, and I think I made a very significant mark around the state.
A lot of people downstate said, "Thank you for doing this. It means so much to the LGBT people in southern and central Illinois." This is a statewide race and there's never been anything like this. I think that we take for granted, in Cook County, a communityand it's clear that downstate there isn't that support. It's conservative and it's difficult to be gay [ downstate ] , so having someone who's gay running statewide is a significant thing. I'm proud of having started a dialogue, and I think Alexi is the guy who's going to carry the LGBT torch. I think he's going to be a leader in Washington on LGBT issues.
WCT: Did you talk with [ fellow candidates ] Cheryle [ Jackson ] and David [ Hoffman ] also, or just with Alexi?
Jacob Meister: Just Alexi. It's become clear to me over the past weeks that Alexi is, by far, the most in line with my policies and positions. To me, the greatest compliment is when someone wants to adopt my policies and positions.
Cheryle, for obvious reasons ... her positions are not mine. And I don't believe David's sincerity for a minute. He's not a man of principle, in my mind. He worked for [ former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice ] William Rehnquist, and that says it all. I don't care how many times he says it was about opportunism, I know I never would've worked for that man. I would have never helped that man put words on paper and cause damage to all sorts of civil rights.
WCT: You're not ruling out running in the future.
Jacob Meister: Oh, absolutely not. I plan on remaining very politically active. I don't have any plans to run for anything. I plan to go down to Florida, visit my mother and maybe take in a little sun. Then, I'm sure I'll be helping in the general election in any way I can. ... I'm not going away, for sure.
WCT: Is there anything you want to tell your supporters?
Jacob Meister: We need, as a community, to exercise our right and power at the ballot box. The readers need to understand that our community is large ( 800,000+ registered voters ) , and we don't assert our influence at the ballot boxwhich is one of our greatest downfalls. We start to rewarding friends and punishing enemies at the ballot box if we're to going to make progress as a community.