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Three look for support in city treasurer race

Aldermen Ameya Pawar, Michelle Smith and John Arena during a City Council meeting. | Brian Jackson/ for the Sun-Times

It’s not even close to the stampede that followed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision not to seek another term, but a slowly growing number of politicians are eying the soon to be vacant city treasurer’s office.

An alderman, a state representative married to another alderman and an unsuccessful countywide candidate are all canvassing for support in a field left open by the decision of incumbent Kurt Summers last week not to seek reelection.

A spokesman for International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 confirmed a report in Politico Wednesday that the union was planning to support Ald. Ameya Pawar for the position, but declined to give details about the thinking behind their endorsement. The spokesman said he did not know when the 47th Ward alderman planned to announce his candidacy.

Pawar said he was considering a run for treasurer on Sept. 17. He simultaneously announced an ambitious set of ideas he would pursue in office, including a public, city-owned bank and local re-financing of student loans.

Two other union committees, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399 Political Education Fund and Service Employees International Union Illinois State Council, have made $5,000 donations to Pawar’s political committee in October, the first contributions he has reported since March. Neither union responded to requests for comment Wednesday.

Local 150, SEIU-Healthcare and SEIU Local 1 are among the unions that have an ownership stake in the Chicago Sun-Times.


State Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin (D-Chicago) said Wednesday that she will be “making an announcement shortly” regarding her own run for treasurer. Conyears-Ervin says she was tapped to look at the position by black West Side elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Danny Davis.

Conyears-Ervin said she’d draw on her experience watching her single mother balancing a checkbook from week to week as city treasurer.

“I’m a person that understands what our families are experiencing around the City of Chicago. I personally know the struggle, I understand, I’ve been there,” Conyears-Ervin said. “I want to make sure we [invest the city’s money] so that we get good returns for working families.”

Conyears-Ervin declined to elaborate on specific policies she’d pursue in office. She pointed to her efforts on behalf of early-childhood education in Springfield in the wake of the state budget crisis as proof of her commitment to working on behalf of working families.

Conyear-Ervin said she had heard that other politicians were eyeing the position.

“I’m hearing that there are ambitious men out there, thinking about running for this office. But its time for something different,” Conyears-Ervin said.

Conyear-Ervin is married to Ald. Jason Ervin (28th).

County Treasurer Maria Pappas, left, and Primary Challenger Peter Gariepy met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
County Treasurer Maria Pappas, left, and Primary Challenger Peter Gariepy met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Peter Gariepy, a CPA who ran and lost in a primary for Cook County Treasurer against incumbent Maria Pappas in June, is circulating petitions and signing up aldermen for his own bid for the position.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st) and Ald. John Arena (45th) have signed up to serve on his exploratory committee, Gariepy said. Reached for comment Wednesday, Waguespack said he had been impressed by Gariepy’s commitment to opening up Chicago’s finances to scrutiny from the City Council.

Gariepy got less than 20 percent of the vote in his run against Pappas.

He “lost fair and square,” in that election but his conversation with voters during that campaign had prepared him for a run for city treasurer, Gariepy said.

Waguespack pointed to Gariepy’s relatively strong performance within the city limits in that race, and the difficulty of running against a well-connected incumbent, as reasons for optimism about his new campaign.

Gariepy stresses his professional credentials when pitching his candidacy. The ballooning required payments into the city’s pension funds makes it more important than ever that the city’s finances be in responsible hands, Gariepy said.

“Now is a time for a serious financial professional, in what will be an increasingly critical role for the city’s financial health,” Gariepy said. “It is not meant to be a political stepping-stone, or a place to advance a political agenda.”

Candidates for Treasurer will need to present 12,500 valid petition signatures by Nov. 26 in order to appear on the ballot in February 2019.