The bottom political line: Will the Women’s March in Chicago and other cities this weekend make a difference in this election year?

“I think people will be running to the polls in numbers like we’ve never seen,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan told me when we talked behind the stage at the Grant Park rally that preceded a march to the Loop.

Madigan was with her teen daughter, Rebecca, who was holding a hand-painted sign that said “Resist” with three clenched fists.


I last saw the mother/daughter duo at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 – happier times for them – where they cheerfully posed in front of a Hillary Clinton sign.

The first Women’s March in 2017 was a surprising mass mobilization of women across the country demonstrating – somewhat unstructured – the day after Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration.

The 2018 marches came on Trump’s first anniversary in office, hours after the start of a federal government shutdown and in the wake of the newly spawned “MeToo” movement calling attention to sexual harassment in the workplace.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan marched with her daughter, Rebecca. | Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

Maybe Republicans in the Chicago area and across the nation are as motivated as Democrats right now; if they are, show me where they are marching.

The march in Chicago was a Democratic organizing exercise, with Democrats on stage. The goal was summarized in this pithy sign I spotted: “Grab ’em by the Midterms” — a play on Trump’s bragging that his celebrity allowed him to grab women “by the p—y.”

The bigger funders for Women’s March Chicago — disclosed on the group’s website — include Democratic-allied labor unions SEIU Healthcare Illinois/Indiana; SEIU Local 73; SEIU Local 1; the Chicago Federation of Labor, and ATU Local 308. They also include Democratic gubernatorial primary contender J.B. Pritzker and the anti-Trump group “Need to Impeach,” bankrolled by Tom Steyer, the billionaire Democratic activist who was a speaker at the Chicago march. The CFL and SEIU Local 1 are among a group of labor unions which hold ownership stakes in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Voting histories for both parties show voters drop-off in mid-term elections.

Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia talks to Tom Steyer, billionaire Democratic activist. | Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

If Democrats in heavily blue Illinois can leverage the anti-Trump/sexual harassment outrage visible at the march, it spells trouble for Illinois Republicans in 2018.

I asked City Clerk Anna Valencia who the target demographic is. She replied: “a lot of millennials … Even my own Latinas. We have to get out there.”

Steyer said he planned to spend $30 million for mid-term turnout programs, focusing on non-voters, age 35-and-under.

Backstage, Steyer — who’s raising his profile to give himself a 2020 presidential option — told me: “We’re going to be organizing and engaging them to try and get them to turn out.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle told me when it comes to energizing mid-term voters, “I think we will see a lot of energy and enthusiasm among women and particularly people of color in this cycle.”

Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer. | Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

An important aspect of these women’s marches – something that crosses party lines – is the push to get more women into elected office.

Illinois has a lousy record. Only nine women, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, have held Illinois statewide elected office since Illinois became a state in 1818. I’ll add to that the two females elected to the U.S. Senate.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx told me when we chatted backstage that she hoped the march is “energizing women to assume seats of power because that is where the real long-lasting change will happen.”

Said Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, who founded the “Cause the Effect” political action committee to get more women to run: “Women like to feel encouraged and supported to run. They don’t want to feel like they are out there on their own.”