Former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman officially launched his campaign to replace Roland Burris as Illinois' junior Senator Thursday, stressing his independent credentials and promising to be the people's advocate.
Speaking in front of supporters at Garfield Park Conservatory, Hoffman took shots at Wall Street, the health care industry and his rivals, whom he tarred as instruments of the political status quo.
"I represent, I believe, a clear choice for voters in this primary," he said. "I'm not one of the insiders. I'm not. I have not been a player in this system. I have been challenging this system."
Hoffman also took a shot at Democratic rivals Alexi Giannoulias and Cheryle Robinson Jackson by saying, "It's time to turn the page on the Blagojevich-Rezko era." Though he did not name either candidate, the implication was clear, as Progress Illinois' Josh Kalven noted:
The Blagojevich reference is clearly directed at Jackson, who worked for the former governor from 2003 until 2006. The Rezko reference may mean that Hoffman plans to highlight a loan to the now-convicted Democratic fundraiser approved by Giannoulias before he was elected state treasurer.
State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, Ald. Joe Moore (49th), state Reps. Susan Garrett and Elaine Nekritz, and Illinois Reform Commission chair Patrick Collins joined Hoffman. Collins and Hoffman served together on the commission that submitted recommendations for combating corruption in the wake of Rod Blagojevich's impeachment.
Hoffman, 42, now departs on an RV tour of the state to kick off his campaign and introduce himself to voters. Aside from some recent press attention over his report lambasting Chicago's parking meter deal, Hoffman is a political unknown.
The former federal prosecutor and supreme court clerk faces an uphill battle for the Democratic nomination, the winner of which will likely face North Shore Republican Congressman Mark Kirk.
Hoffman came out firing at Kirk, accusing him of complicity with the Bush administration's economic agenda.
"Even as the financial mess was beginning to unfold," Hoffman said, "Congressman Mark Kirk voted against tougher regulation of the very sub-prime mortgages that were at the heart of this crisis. In fact, he marched lock-step with the Bush-Cheney economic program right over the cliff."
Watch Hoffman's announcement speech: