U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) formally endorsed Jesus "Chuy" Garcia for mayor and Susan Sadlowski Garza for 10th Ward alderman at a Thursday evening rally on Chicago's Southeast Side. Sanders, who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, said he sees Garcia and Garza as being part of a new "political revolution" to address problems facing the country and ordinary Americans.
With just days until Chicago's runoff election, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) visited the Southeast Side Thursday to formally endorse Jesus "Chuy" Garcia for mayor and Susan Sadlowski Garza for 10th Ward alderman. Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis also attended the packed endorsement rally.
At stake in Chicago's April 7 election is whether "working class people can get the representation they need, or whether the billionaire class wins again," Sanders told a spirited audience at the former headquarters of United Steelworkers Local 1033, located at 11731 S. Avenue O.
In next Tuesday's election, Garcia is taking on Mayor Rahm Emanuel in Chicago's first mayoral runoff since the city implemented a nonpartisan election system. Garza is vying to unseat incumbent Ald. John Pope (10th) in one of 18 aldermanic runoff contests.
Sanders, who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, called for a "political revolution" in Chicago and across the country to tackle issues like income inequality and big money's outsized role in elections.
"What Chuy and Susan are fighting for is an economy that works for all of us, and not just the billionaires," Sanders stressed.
On multiple occasions, the senator slammed Emanuel over his massive campaign war chest.
"Yeah, Chuy is going to be outspent eight-to-one, but there are a lot more of us than there are of them," Sanders said. "So let's elect Chuy, let's elect Susan, and let's make the city of Chicago one of the great progressive cities in the United States of America."
Here's more from Sanders addressing the crowd:
Emanuel is in a re-election battle against Garcia after failing to earn the 50 percent plus one vote needed to avoid a runoff in the last round of balloting.
Garcia told the crowd that Chicagoans want their city back, saying it "got hijacked four years ago by the millionaires and billionaires."
Those people who "hijacked" the city "thought with all the money that they had, they would break our spirit -- but look at our spirit today," Garcia said to massive applause.
"We already made a little bit of history, and on Tuesday, April the 7th, we're going to make major history," Garcia added. "The whole country is watching Chicago."
At the ward level, Garza, a public school counselor, is challenging 16-year incumbent Pope in the city's 10th Ward, which includes the Calumet Heights, East Side, Hegwisch, South Chicago and South Deering neighborhoods.
A top concern in the far Southeast Side ward is the petcoke being stored along the banks of the Calumet River. As alderman, Pope has co-sponsored several measures to regulate the oil refining byproduct and crack down on petcoke operators. But Garza, who supports an outright ban on petcoke, argues that Pope's actions were too little too late. She's also criticized the alderman for receiving some $30,000 in campaign contributions from two petcoke operators, including one controlled by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
She touched on those and other issues during her speech.
"It's not by accident the petcoke company came to the 10th Ward instead of shinier wards on the North Side, and it's not by accident that the smells of Agri-Fine surround our neighborhoods and turn our stomach," Garza said. "It's not by accident that our mental health clinics are closed at the same time that city services are privatized, and tax breaks are handed over to corporations and corporate politicians that don't have our best interest at heart. I'm running for alderman, because I feel like many of you that we don't have a voice in City Hall, not with an alderman who takes money from the Koch brothers."
CTU's Lewis, who decided against a mayoral bid after being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor, also addressed the crowd. In her remarks, the labor leader looked beyond Tuesday's election.
"This has to got to be the start of a movement," she stressed. "This can't be about one election, one election cycle. You have to start continuing to think, who's coming next? Because we have sat around for a long time waiting for a savior, which, I'm going to tell you right now, I don't think anybody's sending, but we have to have little ones all over the place all the time."
Here's more from Lewis:
Sanders was asked by reporters after the rally why he got involved in Chicago's mayoral and 10th Ward races, to which he said: "In this country today, with the massive level of income and wealth inequality that we have, with the middle class disappearing and poverty at an almost all-time high, we need a political revolution.
"What we need are millions of working people to begin to stand up and say, 'Enough is enough,'" Sanders continued. "The billionaire class can't have it all, and we need government to start representing ordinary Americans, and that is what Chuy and Susan are about."
He also raised concerns about the influence of big money in elections.
"It bothers me very much that you have billionaires making all kinds of campaign contributions, and they do it for a reason," Sanders said. "And it's unfair, to my mind, that candidates like Chuy are heavily outspent, and we have got to work on that issue at a national level."
Many voters, the senator said, "think the game is rigged against them economically and politically" and that "they don't have leaders who are representing their interests." He said Garcia and Garza will stand up for ordinary people.
"We don't have all the answers," he said. "We're not going to create utopia here, but we're going to do our damned best to start representing working families, and that is exactly what we have to see all over America ... Clearly, there needs to be a voice to represent the working families of this country, and that is why I'm giving very serious thought to running for president."