Tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin announces mayoral bid against Rahm Emanuel

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Neal Sales-Griffin announces his mayoral bid Saturday morning at the Shapiro Ballroom. | Rachel Hinton/Sun-Times

Young tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin officially threw his hat into the crowded 2019 mayoral race with a lengthy campaign announcement on Saturday.

During a nearly 90-minute speech at the Shapiro Ballroom, Sales-Griffin dug into the city’s problems, saying people are fleeing the city, with residents disengaged from city officials who are more focused on their donors and keeping their jobs than their constituents.

Sales-Griffin, 30, said Mayor Rahm Emanuel has tried his best but “he’s not been doing a good enough job,” adding that the mayor should “be someone who is from here.”

“I shouldn’t be running for mayor . . . and the reason I’m doing that is because I’m willing to put myself out there and talk about the things that people don’t want to talk about,” Sales-Griffin said.

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He joins an ever growing field of candidates trying to take on Emanuel in 2019. Those officially in the race include former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, millionaire businessman Willie Wilson, Chicago Principals and Administrators Association President Troy LaRaviere and 22-year-old community activist Ja’Mal Green.

Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer are also considering mayoral runs.

Without going far into specific policy proposals on Saturday, Sales-Griffin said he’d focus on re-establishing faith and trust in leadership, with a vision of Chicago where people don’t have to struggle to live, and where people choose to stay.

The 30-year-old tech entrepreneur urged an audience of over 100 to work with him and keep asking questions in order to “activate” themselves. He took a few questions on topics ranging from the use of TIF funds to instilling a more transparent budget process.

Sales-Griffin grew up at 49th and Drexel on the city’s South Side, the son of an African-American father and a mother with Honduran and Filipino roots. After graduating from Northwestern University, Sales-Griffin started a computer coding boot camp called The Starter League, which he later sold in 2016.

He’s currently the CEO of CodeNow, a nonprofit group that helps teach coding to schoolchildren.

Maggie Jim, who ran Sales-Griffin’s student council president campaign while at Northwestern, said he’d come a “long, great way” from those days.

“He’s picked up a lot of experiences through various efforts that give him a great perspective to get results in the city,” Jim said.

2019 MAYORAL RACE COVERAGE: • Bridget Gainer mulls 2019 race for mayor to save Chicago neighborhoods ‘at risk’ • ‘Flabbergasted’: Some can’t understand Dorothy Brown’s decision to run for mayor • Black Lives Matter activist Ja’Mal Green announces run for mayor of Chicago • With caps lifted, Emanuel flexes fundraising muscle to tune of $1.6M

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