Quick Hit Wednesday March 19th, 2014, 4:48pm

Guest Post: Lessons Learned In Primary 2014

The following guest post is from Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

Incumbents seeking to erode retirement security in Chicago had better beware

Throughout this primary season, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has been a strong and vocal advocate for voters on the South and West Sides of Chicago—many of whom have been most impacted by the foolishness of education deformers and pension thieves. It is time to stand up to the predatory corporate and political interests that seek to threaten the economic security of thousands of workers. Incumbents seeking to steal our retirement security, beware.

The Chicago Teachers Union expressed people power this electoral cycle. We were most successful in creating a platform of educational justice and retirement security that was expressed by our endorsed candidates.  Representative-elect Will Guzzardi amplified our calls for an elected, representative school board, a moratorium on school closings and an end to charter proliferation.

With our continued support and his ability to turn the issues we’ve long championed into a successful political campaign, he was able to take down the Berrios machine and strike a blow to the top-down political tradition of the Northwest Side.

While the 26th District race remains contested, it is clear that voters on the South Side have soundly rejected State Rep. Christian “Crown” Mitchell’s anti-working families’ platform. This contest, more than any other this Primary season, exposes the racial and economic fault lines for 2015.

School closings, the campaign for an elected, representative school board and retirement security are important issues that matter well beyond downtown Chicago. It is also clear that education deformers, such as Democrats for Education Reform, Stand For Children, Lester Crown and the We Mean Business PAC will continue to spend millions of dollars to influence Illinois public policy and purchase the loyalty of politicians too compromised to stand up for their constituents.

The only way an incumbent like Mitchell was able to—possibly—squeak by a relatively unknown community leader like Jay Travis was by pandering to predominantly white wards through scare tactics and misinformation about imaginary tax increases. Travis, on the other hand, was able to secure the support of working families that want well-resourced neighborhood schools, retirement security and the right to self-determination thru an elected representative school board. It is also telling that despite having virtually no support beyond parents, students and working class people such as teachers, social workers, secretaries, lunchroom workers, janitors, firefighters, police officers and hospital workers, Travis showed impressive gains against a well-financed incumbent backed by the mayor, the Illinois Speaker of the House, the Cook County Board President, two U.S. congressmen, various aldermen, preachers and other paid political operatives.

Tuesday was only Round One in the 26th District. The die has been cast and the electorate has been energized. The CTU will continue to be dogmatic, clear and protective of publicly funded public education and retirement security. Because of our collective effort, Rep. Christian “Crown” Mitchell has been exposed as a puppet of the oligarchy who gave him nearly a half-million dollars in 2012 and a million dollars in 2014 to secure his pension vote. He continues to accept donations from a group that advocates for the shuttering of neighborhood schools and uses those funds to benefit charter operations and the businesses they run.


  • LESSON ONE: The CTU also provided organizers and financial resources that helped secure the Will Guzzardi victory over Toni Berrios in the 39th Legislative District. The CTU’s campaigns echoed strongly in Guzzardi’s winning education platform of saving neighborhood schools and stopping pension theft. It has been more than a decade since a union-supported candidate unseated an incumbent in a primary.
  • LESSON TWO: While pollsters and key influencers were predicting a Christian ‘Crown’ Mitchell 10-point–to 12-point blowout in the 26th Legislative District, CTU’s candidate Jay Travis trounced the incumbent in in the 4th Ward (where his political sponsors have the most influence) and she is within just over 400 votes of victory—this despite widespread incidents of intimidation and interference with the democratic process.
  • LESSON THREE: The CTU sent a clear message: We will not sit by idly while threats are made to steal the retirement security of our members. The Union has turned nearly 30,000 members into a vast political army that is prepared to educate the public, work precincts, donate money and go to the polls on Election Day.
  • LESSON FOUR: There is nothing dead about organized labor. With pundits and pollsters projecting a magnificent landslide for Republican charter booster Bruce Rauner, Kirk Dillard—backed by labor—came within two points of defeating him for the nomination. His near-loss shows that Rauner is an out-of-touch, right-wing billionaire who would put the wealthy, corporations and his special interest buddies ahead of the priorities of Illinois families—job creation and a stronger middle class.
  • LESSON FIVE: The CTU extended its influence to Champaign, Illinois, where Carol Ammons has claimed victory in the 103rd Legislative District. Ammons will make equitable access to public education and pension protection pillars of her race in the fall against Republican Kristin Williamson of Urbana. She is also a strong supporter of Fair Tax and drug policy reform.
  • LESSON SIX: Parents, teachers and voters in the 26th Ward soundly rejected a massive effort by the school district to convert Ames Middle School into an unnecessary military academy. This victory happened despite tactics used by Ald. Roberto Maldonado, which included mailings, persistent robo-calls, and having students dressed as Marines canvass door to door.
  • LESSON SEVEN: The CTU gained valuable field experience, involved hundreds of members in field operations, increased the number of members donating political contributions, and intends to use these increased capacities in future contests. Through the Chicagoans for Economic Security PAC, working families will organize, pool their resources and actively participate in campaigns to defeat the status quo.
  • LESSON EIGHT: This ain’t Wisconsin.


LOVE # 8! I am actually looking forward to this municipal election in 2015, thanks to the CTU and a couple of great progressive candidates. Go get 'em!


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