Updated 01/17/14 – 2:12 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Despite being a relative unknown, especially outside Chicago, and having only a few hundred dollars in his campaign fund, former CeaseFire director Tio Hardiman said he’s serious about trying to beat incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn in the Democratic primary election in March.

Now that some of Quinn’s allies have dropped their challenge to Hardiman’s nominating petitions, the former head of the anti-violence group CeaseFire said his bid for the governor’s office can regain its momentum.

Hardiman said he has the executive experience and vision needed for the job, even if he’s only got about $550 in his campaign fund – compared to about $4.5 million for Quinn.

“The state is broke, okay?” he said. “We need some money, don’t get me wrong, but the thing is we could beat Quinn with $1 million.”

Even raising $1 million likely will be a difficult prospect for Hardiman, given he raised only about $15,000 in the last three months of last year, and more than $13,000 of that was a loan from Hardiman himself.

As for his lack of experience in elected government, Hardiman said, “The experienced politicians throughout Illinois are leading the state to bankruptcy, okay? We’re on the ‘Midnight Train to Georgia.’ I just want to make that clear.’”

Hardiman said his experience with grassroots-level organizing can help improve conditions for everyday people in Illinois.

When he talked about increasing school funding and improving the state’s employee pension stability, he said he does have new revenue in mind.

“What I’m looking at is opening up three new casinos in Illinois,” he said. “The only difference, I pledge to make them state-owned casinos, and the money will go right into an education fund, and the money will also go into reducing the state deficit.”

Hardiman’s lieutenant governor running mate Brunell Donald said the race against Quinn is a battle between the haves and have-nots.

“The people make the decision about who goes into that chair, not Pat Quinn, not the media,” she said.

Hardiman and Donald are the guests on this weekend’s “At Issue” program, airing at 9:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 19.

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