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Ald. Ameya Pawar says he’s running for governor

Alderman Ameya Pawar

Ald. Ameya Pawar announced his candidacy for governor in 2018. | Sun-Times file photo

North Side Ald. Ameya Pawar on Tuesday confirmed he’s running for governor, saying he’ll try to speak to Illinois residents seeking a “progressive vision.”

Pawar is the first of many Democrats expected to declare they’ll run against Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2018. Rauner in December contributed $50 million to his campaign, jumpstarting what is set to become one of the most expensive campaigns in the state.

Pawar, 36, became 47th Ward alderman in 2011 and won re-election in 2015. His ward covers the North Center, Lincoln Square and Ravenswood neighborhoods.

On Tuesday, Pawar said he decided to run partly based on President-elect Donald Trump’s victory, and also what he’s seen in terms of the state’s budget crisis.

And he said he knows he’ll have to battle an onslaught of contributions from Rauner and his supporters.

“Fifty million from one man who has a very destructive record is nothing to be proud of, and I have $50,000 and I’m not ashamed of it,” Pawar said. “I’ve got lots of donors and lots of people who have helped me over the last five years. I’ll run a campaign to the best of my ability. I’ll raise what I can. But I’m going to go out there and talk to people.”

The Illinois Republican Party shot back at Pawar, calling him “an out-of-touch, tax-hiking politician just like [Illinois House Speaker] Mike Madigan,” spokesman Steven Yaffe said in a statement. The party called Pawar’s run “a long-shot bid.”

Evanston native Pawar, whose parents came from India in the 1970s, pulled off an upset in the 2011 aldermanic election, beating out former Ald. Eugene Schulter’s hand picked replacement. He was just 30 at the time, and ran his campaign office out of a North Side bowling alley. Pawar’s City Council successes include directing $40 million in TIF funds to libraries and schools in his ward and the towing bill of rights, among other things.

Last year, Pawar, who is chairman of the City Council’s Asian-American Caucus, was among three aldermen who urged Rauner to “stand up for Chicago” and against Trump’s first 100 days promise to cut off federal funding to so-called “sanctuary” cities.

Although Pawar has declared he’ll run, it’s still too early to file paperwork. There are several other Democrats considering runs, including J.B. Pritzker, Chris Kennedy, U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, state Treasurer Michael Frerichs and state Sen. Andy Manar.