Will Guzzardi, a three-term incumbent State Representative for Illinois’ 39th House District and longtime Logan Square activist and resident, kicked off his reelection party Sept. 4 with a full crowd of community members and other political leaders.
Revolution Brewing donated some beers, and LaCroix and local tacos were available to the guests who filled the room at the event, which was held in Guzzardi’s new campaign space (2934 N. Milwaukee Ave.) that he shares with Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa.
Progressive political leaders came out in waves to support Guzzardi. First, was Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, who praised Guzzardi for his dedication to the progressive movement in Chicago and Illinois politics. Johnson noted that, for Guzzardi’s first runs for office, he was concerned that Guzzardi was unaware of what he was up against.
Johnson noted that before there was him and Alderman Rossana Rodriguez, leading progressives, Guzzardi filled the void in championing his vision.
The next speaker was 33rd Ward Alderman Rodriguez, who brought attention to Guzzardi’s work protecting immigrant communities and said that, though she will not stand next to many politicians, she was proud to support Guzzardi.
The third speaker of the night, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, drew uproarious applause as she began to speak. She noted that Guzzardi’s rise to office came about at a time when it was very tough to be a progressive up against the Chicago machine. She noted how his work was essential to her own political journey.
“We cannot for a moment think that we get here on our own,” Foxx said.
Foxx referenced a moment when Guzzardi cross-examined other State’s Attorneys to shame them for putting the criminal justice system “on the backs of poor folks.” She referenced Guzzardi’s leadership on bringing about recreational marijuana use to Illinois in an equitable fashion. Highlighting the opposition to this issue, Foxx said, “the sh*t this dude has to deal with!”
As Guzzardi took the stage, the crowd broke into a “we got your back!” chant for Foxx, who has been in high water after the Jussie Smollett case.
There is this shared recognition that the work Will is doing benefits so many people; beyond his district and beyond this city. Working-class people throughout Illinois are depending on us to see efforts through to policy that will make a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable future.Grace Vargas, Guzzardi’s Chief of Staff
Guzzardi reminisced about his first run for office in 2011, saying he believed then, as he does now, that the Democratic Party “had to be better.”
“We needed a party that was going to put people first,” Guzzardi said, referring to championing unapologetically progressive policy.
He said that the drama of bringing about the minimum wage raise to $15 in Illinois was “the best moment of my whole life,” commenting “you can run on big progressive ideas. You can win on big progressive ideas. You can govern on big progressive ideas.”
Guzzardi decried what he referred to as 50 years of an “austerity story” pushed by right-wing force in the United States and in Illinois, arguing that progressive policies prove that “there is enough for everyone.” Guzzardi was quick to note that he would continue his historical style of campaigning by focusing on knocking on doors and speaking with people, rather than brief encounters at grocery stores or El stops.
Guzzardi brought attention to his former Chief of Staff, Melissa Rubio, who had worked for him for six years before leaving to run another campaign on the city’s South Side. He welcomed his new Chief of Staff, Grace Vargas.
“It’s one thing to anticipate the logistics of a campaign kickoff, and another to feel the transformative political power in that room,” Vargas later told LoganSquarist. “There is this shared recognition that the work Will is doing benefits so many people; beyond his district and beyond this city.
“Working-class people throughout Illinois are depending on us to see efforts through to policy that will make a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable future,” she continued. “Our enthusiasm, trust, and support have been earned by Representative Guzzardi and this kickoff proved the northwest side is eager to fight alongside him.”
Photos: Tom Vlodek