Q and A With Gubernatorial Candidate Ameya Pawar’s Running Mate: Tyrone Coleman
What made you decide to join Ameya Pawar as his lieutenant governor running mate?
It was easy to make the decision to be able to help Cairo at a different level. That’s what we’ve been lacking. Our elected state officials have been ignoring that part of Southern Illinois. Being involved in this election process if nothing else is to bring attention to Cairo and the surrounding area and its resources that’s been untapped.
When I grew up there, Cairo was in the heart of the tristate area. Everybody came to Cairo for entertainment, for jobs, for medical shipping. At one point in time, every eight mins there was a train going in and out of town. River traffic was awesome. The Blues circuit where B.B. King and these guys and women at some point in their career performed in Cairo. It was an awesome place to be.
It was a vibrant community. Over the years, people were elected and they didn’t have the community at heart. It was their own personal gain—family members or friends. The sad part about it, people kept electing the same person or persons. Later people were given monies to vote. If you were a drinker/alcoholic—you got a bottle of whiskey or wine for your vote. It was things like that. Those are some of the reasons why we’re in the system that we’re in. The mismanagement of funds. It’s just been a mess.
Tell me about your background and your experience in public service?
I grew up in an environment where my grandparents were political. My grandmother was involved in politics. We were Republicans but it became a time when there was a shift in the Black community and they became Democrats. For the past 50 years, the town has been basically Democratic. I caught hold of some of that. I used to watch my grandmother work with people and help them. I picked parts of that up. When I came back home, I had been in the Marine Corps for 10 years. I came back home for a vacation period. I saw the reverse of things in the time frame I grew up there and when I returned. I’ve always worked in the communities where I was stationed at.
I asked, “why go back and help another community when my community needs help.” I decided to stay there and one thing lead to another. I founded the two-county, local NAACP chapter. I was always working trying to build the community and help lift the community. This lead to other things.
If I was going to make a difference, I would have to be a part of government. Now, I’m in the mayor’s seat, now I feel I may have to be at another level of government at a state level. I can reach back down and offer more assistance. If I can be at that state dynamic, I’m sure I can do more than even at a local level.
How do you see the diversity of having a running mate from a town that has been considered almost abandoned by some of the powers that be? How does this represent the full scope the entire state of Illinois?
Ameya Pawar: Part of the reason of Mayor Emanuel’s school closings is one of the reasons why I told him if you close the school, it’s like closing the community. How do you take government investment out of a community and expect it to thrive? The thing about Cairo, it sits at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. They should be a tourist destination like it was a couple generations ago. How do I know that? Look at Galena, just up the Mississippi river. Cairo is just a microcosm of what’s happening all over the state. It’s East Louis, Harvard, Galesburg—South and Westside of Chicago. These are Black, White and Brown communities.
Mayor Coleman: We have allowed the system to divide us. Race and socially—just any and everything instead of seeing that we are really “one.” We’re part of the human family but we get caught up in what “they” say.
What will be your message as you both travel throughout the state?
Coleman: One of the main areas of investment is people investing in themselves and in their elected officials on a local scale. You turn to your local scale and you make them produce and that person who is elected locally has to make contact and communicate with the state official to make them do what is right.
We allow these things to happen because we don’t get involved. You have to make your elected officials accountable.
Do you consider yourself bipartisan when you’re working with other officials?
Coleman: Anybody who is willing to work with my community, I’m willing to work with that person. I don’t get caught up in labels.