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Sweet: 'Chuy' Garcia, Clinton's Chicago pals aim to turn out Iowa vote

Hillary Clinton

DES MOINES — A day before Iowa votes, Hillary Clinton’s best pal, Betsy Ebeling, knocked on doors here for her Park Ridge buddy. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., introduced Jeb Bush at events. And Cook County Board member Jesus “Chuy” Garcia worked the state to whip up turnout for Bernie Sanders.

Clinton’s last Iowa rally on Sunday night was a display of the full Clinton political force, with Hillary, Bill and Chelsea all on the stage.

A big contingent from Chicago at the packed Abraham Lincoln High School gym included school chums from Eugene Field School and Maine South in Park Ridge — Illinois Clinton White House alums — and key players in her Illinois and national campaign.

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, helped out in Iowa City on Sunday. On Monday, when the caucuses start meeting at 7 p.m., he’ll be focusing on turnout in Des Moines. Franks told me, “We’ve got to work and work and work to bring out every Hillary voter.”

The Chicago Clinton die-hards at the high school gym were supposed to number about 50, Ebeling told me. Besides Ebeling and Franks, I spotted Kevin Conlon; J.B. Pritzker; Elaine Weiss, Terry Cosgrove, Steven Collens, Raj Fernando, and Brian McPartlin, to name a few

J.B. Pritzker at Hillary Clinton’s final Des Moines rally on Sunday. | Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times


“So this is a room of people feeling the Bern,” Garcia said to volunteers at Sanders’ Iowa headquarters in a shopping mall here, before they headed out to canvass or work the phone banks. “Tomorrow we can make history and show the country is moving forward with a political revolution.”

This was Garcia’s third trip to Iowa for Sanders, who came to Chicago last year to bolster his mayoral campaign against Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Their alliance continues. Garcia, a hero in progressive circles for taking on Emanuel, is one of Sanders’ higher-profile surrogates on this final weekend before the first-in-the nation presidential vote.

Cook County Commissioner Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia, in Iowa on Sunday to help Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, meets Adriana Sanchez, 27 (right), a telemetry nurse at the University of Chicago Medical Center who lives in Woodlawn. Sanchez and the woman at left were part of the red-scrubs-wearing contingent of the National Nurses United. As a Latina and a nurse, Sanchez said she was drawn to Sanders by his call for universal health coverage. “I decided I needed to get more involved.” | Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

Sanders, the Vermont senator, and Clinton, the former Secretary of State, former New York senator and ex-first lady, are in a close race in Iowa. No matter the outcome, Sanders — a Jewish socialist raised in Brooklyn who was not even a member of the Democratic Party — was given little chance when he launched his White House bid.

“I think that in many respects, he’s already won something big, getting to Iowa, making the race so close and being powered by small contributions,” Garcia said when we chatted.

Even though Iowa is largely white, both Sanders and Clinton are wooing the black and Hispanic vote. Garcia was also being used to turn out Hispanic voters for the caucus sessions.

At the Sanders HQ — where informality was as present as the pizza — I chatted with a Chicagoan who, as he put it, has “never been a part of a political anything.” That political newbie is Neal Sales-Griffin, 28, a West Loop resident who founded a software school. He drove to Des Moines on Friday and ended up phone banking, canvassing and doing data entry.


Other Clinton die-hards in Chicago made the drive to Iowa.

Judith Cothran, an ob-gyn who lives on the Gold Coast, was knocking on doors for Clinton on Saturday. Josephine Hamilton Perry, a retired teacher from Chatham also was canvassing, and Delmarie Cobb, who backed Clinton when she ran in 2008, is with her again. “We wanted to make the final push to get people to vote on Monday,” she said.

Jan Kallish, a Sandburg Village resident, said after her door knocks she learned “there are a whole lot of men who don’t know their wives are Hillary supporters.”

On Saturday in eastern Iowa, Rep. Jan. Schakowsky, D-Ill., organized 92 Illinois volunteers to knock on doors in Davenport for Clinton.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush greets the crowd after a campaign event at his 2016 field office on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, in Hiawatha, Iowa. | Chris Carlson/AP


Kinzinger, a co-chair of Jeb Bush’s Illinois campaign, stumped in Iowa for the Florida governor on Friday, Saturday and part of Sunday, introducing Bush at several events and then walking around talking to people “trying to get them to caucus,” he told me.

When Bush jumped in the race last summer he was seen as a top prospect. Instead, he has been struggling to stand out in the crowded Republican field. Polls put him in the low single digits in Iowa. He’s doing a bit better in New Hampshire, with a Feb. 9 primary.

Said Kinzinger: “He always knew that Iowa would be a tough call.”