City treasurer’s race headed for a Conyears-Ervin, Pawar runoff

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State Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin, D-Chicago, and Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) | Sun-Time file photos

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The battle to become Chicago’s next treasurer was heading to a runoff late Tuesday as State Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin, D-Chicago, held a slim lead over Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th).

The election — the first contested treasurer race since 1999 — pitted Pawar, Conyears-Ervin, who is married to Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), and an accountant against each other for the job of the city’s banker.

With 95.4 percent of 2,069 precincts reporting late Tuesday, Conyears-Ervin held 44.2 percent of the vote with Pawar in second at 41.7 percent. Accountant Peter Gariepy sat well behind at 14.1 percent.

“Humbled by your support Chicago! But we’re not done yet, on to the April 2nd runoff,” Conyears-Ervin tweeted Tuesday night.

Pawar tweeted, “On to Round 2.”

Gariepy, meanwhile, tweeted a concession, congratulating his two opponents and thanking his campaign volunteers.

With none of the three candidates reaching the required 50 percent for a victory, an April runoff was set for either Conyears-Ervin or Pawar to take the place of outgoing Treasurer Kurt Summers, who announced in October he would not seek re-election.

Though the new treasurer will be tasked with managing the city’s escrow and operating fund accounts, controlling the city’s investments and overseeing the city’s pension funds, ideas have been floated that envision more for the office.

Conyears-Ervin campaigned under the promise of becoming a watchdog that would offer more transparency of city finances. She said that would include auditing city departments and moving the City Council Office of Financial Analysis under the treasurer’s control.

“I believe the treasurer’s responsibility is first and foremost to safeguard public tax dollars,” Conyears-Ervin said. “Outside of the official duties of the office, I believe that requires a productive relationship with both the mayor and the city council, but it also demands that the treasurer speak out when politicians are acting in such a way that is not in the best interest of taxpayers.

“I will do what’s right for Chicago residents, not the mayor or the members of the city council.”

Pawar, a rising star in city politics, ran on a progressive platform that centered around the creation of a city-owned bank to use public dollars to prop up under-developed communities.

After Pawar dropped out of the Democratic primaries for governor last year due to lack of campaign funding, he shifted his focus to the treasurer’s office. Pawar said the goal of a public bank would be to use tax dollars to prop up under-developed communities.

“For too long, big banks have been able to take advantage of Chicago taxpayers through predatory service fees, unpredictable changes in interest rates and other bad deals that have cost us dearly,” Pawar said. “A public bank could remove the stranglehold big banks have had over our city for decades and would allow us to wrest back control over our own financial future.”

Pawar also touted his social and economic justice policies, saying he would make it a priority to develop Chicago’s version of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s, D-NY, Green New Deal, which would set a financial plan for the city to move toward environmentally friendly investments and away from carbon.

Conyears-Ervin, meanwhile, said a public bank would be a “powerful tool” to keep private banks in check, but she would “work closely” with State Treasurer Mike Frerichs to figure out if it was the best option for the city.

Gariepy had claimed he was the “only financial professional” in a race against two politicians. A public bank would be fiscally irresponsible, unrealistic and not “within the bounds of financial and political reality,” Gariepy argued. He said the city would not have the up-front resources to open a bank in the first place.

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