47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar met voters for a Q&A at Revolution Brewing (2323 N. Milwaukee Ave.) on Wednesday, April 26, making the case for his bid in an increasingly crowded Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Pawar was the first to jump into the governor race in January and has since been joined by political scion Chris Kennedy and the venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker, among others. Pawar has drawn his candidacy in stark contrast to theirs, betting that where he trails in large-donor fundraising he can make up for by claiming the progressive mantle.
“I don’t think money’s gonna win this thing,” Pawar said in his closing remarks about the importance of grassroots support. “When we walk and drive around this state, people just want to be heard … People are tired of fighting for scraps.”
Allie Rogowski, a clinical researcher at Northwestern University, wasn’t alone Wednesday in having experienced a political awakening after the election of Donald Trump. She attended the Women’s March on Washington in January, and soon after got involved in a “Next Up Huddle” in her neighborhood, an informal gathering meant to carry on the March’s progressive activism. In her estimation, Revolution’s crowded upstairs bar that night was a logical extension of that activism.
“It feels like a tipping point for us to show what America is really about,” Rogowski said. “Look at the crowd; it’s mostly younger people, and I’m not the only one who’s gotten more involved in local politics. This is the time to make change.”
Tim Wang, a Lincoln Square resident (and constituent of Pawar’s at the city level), echoed that sentiment. Wang, incensed by what he saw as the acceptance of racism and misogyny by Trump’s supporters, has gotten involved in grassroots activism through the Berry United Methodist Church (4757 N. Leavitt St.). For Wang, after hearing Trump’s increasingly offensive comments the 2016 election had a foregone conclusion regardless of the winner.
“I needed to be politicized,” he said.
Pawar referred several times in his comments to a need to reach out not just to dyed-in-the-wool progressives, however, but Trump voters whose economic interests he believes aren’t represented by the rhetorically populist president. He spoke in a post-Q&A interview about the need to transverse the fault lines of economic and identity politics that split not just Republicans and Democrats, but even factions within the Democratic party.
“White poverty is a class issue,” Pawar said. “Poor whites are the only people who it’s socially okay to make fun of. We need to hit that head on. Structural causes of poverty in black and brown communities might be different from that in poor white communities, but poverty is poverty. If we can start talking about poverty as a white, black and brown issue — as an urban and rural issue — there’s an opportunity for massive public investments and to bring people together.”
West Loop resident Sharapt Nagaraja gave Pawar high marks after the Q&A’s conclusion. As a self-described history buff, he remained optimistic despite what he described as President Trump’s “demagoguery,”, and admired Pawar for taking the long view.
“We need to be participating here, in our communities,” Nagaraja said. “Progress comes over many years. It’s easy to break, but it takes a while to build.”