Tio HardimanPhoto courtesy TioHardiman.com

Former CeaseFire director Tio Hardiman is considering a run for Illinois governor and has formed an exploratory committee to look into that possibility.

Hardiman says he’d run as a Democrat and estimates he’ll need to raise between $500,000 and $750,000 to finance his campaign.

“There is a perception that you need to have upwards of $2 or $3 million to launch an effective campaign in Illinois, but I feel that my effectiveness as a communicator makes me more adapt at working with a smaller budget,” Hardiman said.

Gun control, particularly the accessibility of semi-automatic weapons, and decreasing gang violence would be among his top priorities as governor if elected, Hardiman said. Focusing more resources toward the high unemployment rate among black Illinoisans would be another, he said.

Nationally, the black employment rate is currently 13.7 percent nationally, up from 13.5 percent in May.

“There is definitely a feeling that this is not being given the attention in deserves,” Hardiman said. “I want to set up a committee that will look at ways to attract more businesses to Illinois, and find positions for people of color to fill.”

Departure from CeaseFire

Hardiman had been with CeaseFire, an anti-violence organization founded on the West Side of Chicago, since its inception in 1999. He was executive director until June, when he placed on administrative leave by the organization after his arrest on domestic battery charges against his wife. His contract, which was up June 30, with CeaseFire Illinois was not renewed.

A spokesperson for CeaseFire told the Associated Press that Hardiman’s dismissal was not related to the battery charge, but his contract simply not being renewed. Hardiman’s wife, Alison, later dropped the charges in early July and, according to Hardiman, they are currently working on their marriage.

“Our marriage is going wonderfully right now,” he said. “We are on the same page and ready to put the unfortunate incident behind us. We are moving on in the right direction.”

Hardiman said he expects his opponents in the governor’s race will try to use that and other past discretions against him — in 1999, he was convicted of misdemeanor battery of his first wife.

“I know that my opponents will bring up these incidents to attack me. I am glad that my skeletons are out of the closet and I can now move forward in my career. But I have no felony arrests or convictions, and I feel as though my dedication and commitment to nonviolence and the people of Illinois has shown throughout my career,” he said.

Hardiman, the Interrupter

Hardiman is best known for pioneering the highly-successful Violence Interrupter Initiative through CeaseFire. The initiative involved trained, violence-intervention experts working to mediate potentially-violent disputes between rival gangs. The program was the subject of the acclaimed documentary film, The Interrupters (2011).

While at CeaseFire, Hardiman helped the organization raise more than $50 million in state funds to expand than outreach, from five Illinois communities to 15, and from 20 outreach workers and violence interrupters to 130. Hardiman’s efforts and tenure drew praise from political leaders and community residents.

In addition to CeaseFire, Hardiman organized more than 100 block clubs on the behalf of the Chicago Alliance for Neighborhood Safety to construct a public safety plan. He also held leadership positions with Chicago’s community policing program (CAPS) and Bethel New Life. Hardiman holds a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and a master’s degree in Inner City Studies from Northeastern University.

Hardiman—one of 13 children born to his mother, who was a beautician, and his dad, who was self-employed—grew on the South Side with his grandmother. He relocated to the Henry Horner housing projects in Chicago when he was 15 years old to live with his mother. According to Hardiman, living at Henry Horner shaped his passion for addressing community violence. That passion, as well as social welfare issues, is his primary political focus now, he said.

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