Bernie Sanders to hit Chicago for a presidential kick-off rally at Navy Pier

SHARE Bernie Sanders to hit Chicago for a presidential kick-off rally at Navy Pier

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. | AP file Photo/Patrick Semansky

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders, in the first swing of his 2020 presidential bid, will hit Chicago and Brooklyn — where he spent his college years — with a rally next Sunday night at Navy Pier.

Sanders, the Vermont Independent, jumped into the crowded Democratic primary contest last Tuesday, his second bid for the White House.

Born in Brooklyn, Sanders attended Brooklyn College for one year before transferring to the University of Chicago, where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1964. Sanders returns to Brooklyn College Saturday morning for a campus rally.

Sanders will be the first 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to hold a public event in Illinois.

The March 2020 Illinois primary could prove influential in minting the Democratic nominee because it comes relatively early in the cycle and could be a lifeline for a candidate who does not come out of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada and California with strong delegate counts.

The Chicago rally is unusual because candidates at this opening stage usually touchdown in Chicago for private fundraising, not splashy public events, in part because it takes organization — either grassroots or netroots — to fill a big venue.

Sanders was only narrowly defeated in Illinois by Hillary Clinton — 48.6 percent to 50.6 percent — in the March 2016 primary.

Sanders’ Illinois legacy was an energized local progressive movement and a branch of the political organization he spawned, Our Revolution Illinois, run by veteran Democratic political operative Clem Balanoff.

The Sanders 2020 Chicago kickoff will come days after Tuesday’s exhausting mayoral and aldermanic election. But Sanders may not suffer from election fatigue in the city. Balanoff said Sanders’ strong social media network alone is enough to fill Navy Pier.

“They put out an email and text, and they get thousands of people. That’s how they build rallies,” Balanoff told the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday. Balanoff said he is backing Sanders in 2020.

Indeed, in the 24 hours after his Tuesday announcement, Sanders raised $6 million online, his campaign said, which makes him a formidable factor.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton beat Sanders for the Democratic nomination, going on to be defeated by President Donald Trump. Even so, Sanders pushed the party left and pressured the Democratic National Committee into changing delegate selection rules to lessen the influence of the Democratic establishment.

In 2016, Sanders had the progressive lane all to himself.

Not so in 2020. The closest progressive rival in his lane is Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has already endorsed Warren. But hedging their pick on Saturday they said in a statement the Sanders swing to Brooklyn and Chicago is “a reminder of the powerful one-two punch their candidacies will be as they criss-cross the nation challenging powerful interests on behalf of working people. Together, as they draw the national spotlight to their bold ideas for shaking up the system, their collective support will grow bigger and stronger. And as other candidates rush to follow their lead on popular issues, Democrats will be better positioned to defeat Trump.”

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