Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. | Sun-Times file photo

Kapos: Ameya Pawar’s campaign strategy 2.0

SHARE Kapos: Ameya Pawar’s campaign strategy 2.0
SHARE Kapos: Ameya Pawar’s campaign strategy 2.0

Gubernatorial candidate Ameya Pawar knocked on every door of the 47th Ward before he was elected alderman in 2011.

He wants to mirror that effort as he runs for statewide office. This time, though, he says he has 1,000-plus volunteers across 62 counties to help him.

“We’re going to go to every county and talk to people,” he says. There are 102 counties in Illinois.

Territory isn’t the only thing that’s changed for Pawar since 2011. He’s in a different place, personally, too.

Now married with a 1-year-old daughter, Pawar starts campaigning early each day so he can cover lots of ground downstate before returning in the evenings — often in time to pick up his daughter from day care.

Pawar is one of three announced Democrats seeking to unseat Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. The others are businessman Chris Kennedy and state Sen. Daniel Biss. Entrepreneur J.B. Pritzker is considering a run.

Like Pawar, they’re all fathers. They all have backstories as to how they got into politics. For Pawar, it was the events after Hurricane Katrina.

“It was a life-changing moment,” he says. “I saw a quarter of New Orleans — primarily poorer communities and communities of color — get left behind.”

What bothered Pawar were the criticisms lobbed at those not able to evacuate because they couldn’t afford rental cars or hotel rooms. “It was heartbreaking,” he says.

Pawar went on to study poverty and social work at the University of Chicago. His interests in social work also led him to meet Charna Epstein, who had helped hurricane refugees while working with Heartland Alliance’s resettlement programs. They married in 2014, and she’s now chief operating officer of U. of C.’s Urban Education Institute.

Neil Bluhm bets on Cara

Neil Bluhm

Neil Bluhm

Billionaire businessman Neil Bluhm is a noted philanthropist, but he’s not a regular face on the gala scene.

So what a surprise to hear he’s scheduled to accept honors March 31 at a fundraiser for Cara , a nonprofit that helps people touched by homelessness or poverty find jobs.

Bluhm’s Rivers Casino has hired 26 “graduates” of Cara over the past five years.

He’ll be accepting the honors with Greg Carlin, CEO of Rush Street Gaming, which runs Rivers. Bluhm is chairman of Rush Street Gaming.

Bluhm has a personal rags-to-riches story. He was raised by his mom, who earned a bookkeeper’s salary. He studied law before cofounding JMB Realty, which developed high-rises and hotels around the country and in Chicago, including 900 North Michigan and the Four Seasons.

After leaving JMB, Bluhm started other companies, including Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.

The Cara event is co-hosted by BNY Mellon executive Alexi Giannoulias and his wife, Jo Terlato of Terlato Wines, and Steve Lopez and his wife, Julie Lopez, both are advisers at Merrill Lynch.

Sunda’s new location: Nashville

Billy Dec | Amy Boyle Photography

Billy Dec | Amy Boyle Photography

Sunda, the Asian-themed restaurant in River North, is opening a second location — in Nashville, Tennessee.

It’s the first time the Chicago-based Rockit Ranch Productions restaurant group has expanded outside of the city.

Rockit Ranch also owns Rockit Bar & Grill, the Duck Inn, Bottlefork, the soon-to-open Otto Mezzo and The Underground nightclub.

The company has long considered opening in other markets. In 2007, company President Billy Dec (now CEO) told me Rockit had considered opening in Las Vegas. But he and his co-owners backed out of the project because none of them wanted to make the move out West.

This time around, Mike Morales, Sunda’s current chef de cuisine and a business partner, will serve as executive chef at Sunda in Nashville.

His ideas taking flight

Steve Davis

Steve Davis

You could say Steve Davis‘ thoughts are in the clouds.

He’s working toward his pilot’s license, he’s chairman of the DuPage County Airport and he’s a founder of Tuskegee NEXT, a nonprofit that trains young people from underserved communities to become pilots.

“I just wanted to do something” for teens, he said.

The organization is named, of course, for the famed Tuskegee Airmen who trained in Tuskegee, Alabama, and would escort bomber planes to their targets. The Tuskegee pilots’ planes were recognized by their red tails.

Davis has long admired the contributions of the airmen, whose stories inspired him, in part, to take up flying.

His career, though, is completely on the ground. Davis is chairman of the Will Group, an umbrella business for various energy and construction businesses. The company is named after his late father, William “Will” Davis.

The younger Davis, who counts Gov. Bruce Rauner as a friend, is organizing the nonprofit’s first big gala. The event will be held April 22 at the DuPage airport in the Planemasters Hangar. The name of the event: the Red Tail Ball.

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