Ald. Ameya Pawar, 47th, shown at a March 2017 Chicago City Council meeting, opposed President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
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Democratic governor candidate Ameya Pawar said Sunday that decades of his party’s leaders “cozying up” to big business while forgetting the working class has led to the election of Republicans President Donald Trump and Gov. Bruce Rauner.
“There is no doubt that the Democratic Party in this country, in our country, has paved the way for people like Bruce Rauner and Donald Trump. It’s because we’ve spent the last 35 years cozying up to big business interests without thinking about how people have been left behind,” Pawar, alderman for the 47th Ward on the Northwest Side, said on WGN-AM 720.
“People have been left behind — industry left, jobs are automated and no one did anything. And the party, instead of going out and talking to those folks, creating jobs and investing in them, they cozied up to big business. So that’s how we got where we are today,” he said. “So the existential crisis that we as a party need to solve is truly rooted in practicality. Go talk to people. Invest in them. Stop electing rich people who don’t care about average working people."
Pawar said Democrats “need to go back to the basics. Focus on people by investing in education, double down on public institutions, invest in universities, build up the social safety net. That’s what makes us great. That’s what makes this country great.”
As for the contested contest for the Democratic primary next year, Pawar said his rivals are trying to fit into the best narrative that appeals to voters.
“Everyone is trying now to create this narrative about themselves. ‘Who’s the biggest outsider? Who’s the biggest progressive? Who’s the big progressive populist?’ And then they try to fit themselves into a series of check boxes based on what they think people want,” he said.
“And my approach has always been, I am who I am. I’m comfortable in my own skin. I think I’ve done a lot of good things. I’ve made some mistakes. And if that is something you like, vote for that. If not, participate in the democratic process and vote for someone else,” he said.
Pawar also continued his tough criticism of Rauner, contending the governor’s attacks on Chicago schools are racist.
“He understands that there are divisions between Chicago and the rest of the state. There’ve always been. But he exploits that by saying things like Chicago teachers are virtually illiterate, or calling Chicago Public Schools prisons or referring to our schools using corporate terms like a bailout,” Pawar said.
“I mean, it is code words to prey on people’s fears about what they might think about Chicago. It’s embedded in race and class. What he does is racist. It is racist. There is no doubt about it, except he’s a lot less bombastic and nasty about it. But the code words are there,” he said.
The governor’s camp pushed back.
"The Rauners are proud to have personally supported Chicago schools and contributed substantial resources to improving education in the city for many years," spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in a statement. "As governor, Bruce continues to work towards funding reform that is fair to the entire state."
Rauner, prior to being governor, wrote in a 2011 email to affluent education reform activists that half of CPS’ teachers “are virtually illiterate.” The email was among several that were part of a court-ordered release by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration. In June of last year, he contended many of the city’s public schools were “almost crumbling prisons.” And he has repeatedly criticized a new school-formula bill as containing a “bailout” for CPS. (Rick Pearson)
What’s on tap
*Mayor Emanuel’s schedule wasn’t available.
*Gov. Rauner has no public schedule.
*Terry Mazany, president and chief executive officer for The Chicago Community Trust, will talk to the City Club of Chicago.
*The week ahead: The Illinois House will hold budget hearings in Chicago on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
From the notebook
*Rauner camp gives state GOP an additional $1.5 million: Gov. Rauner’s efforts to bolster the state Republican Party got another subsidy Friday.
State campaign finance records showed Rauner’s campaign gave the state GOP $1.5 million. That brings to $30.6 million the amount the Republican governor has given the Illinois GOP since being sworn into office in January 2015.
Overall, since that time, the state GOP has raised a total of $42.5 million. That means donations from Rauner or his campaign represent at least 72 percent of the money raised by the Illinois Republican Party. (Rick Pearson)
*On the Sunday Spin: Tribune political reporter Rick Pearson’s guests were Steve Schneider with American Insurance Association and Jeff Junkas with Property Casualty Insurers Association to discuss workers’ compensation; Democratic governor candidate and Northwest Side Ald. Ameya Pawar; and Robert Shapiro, an attorney and philosophy professor at St. Xavier University on former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee. The "Sunday Spin" airs from 7 to 9 a.m. on WGN-AM 720. Listen to the full show here.