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Sanders-inspired Our Revolution Chicago endorses Lightfoot

Mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot (left) and Clem Balanoff

Mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot (left) and Clem Balanoff, chairman of Our Revolution Chicago, on Friday, March 15, 2019. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Our Revolution Chicago, the grassroots political organization that grew out of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, endorsed mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot on Friday, setting the stage for U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia to do the same.

Clem Balanoff, chairman of Our Revolution Chicago and a longtime Garcia ally, said he expects the newly elected congressman to climb aboard the Lightfoot bandwagon “in the next few days.”

“He’s obviously a deliberative guy. I obviously would welcome his support. But we’ve been fortunate, particularly in these last two weeks, to have the support of a very diverse array of individuals and organizations,” Lightfoot said.

Garcia did not respond to phone calls or text messages.

Laying the groundwork for Garcia’s coveted endorsement was the email poll of over 12,000 people on the Our Revolution Chicago supporters list.

It showed Lightfoot with 59 percent of the vote to 26 percent for Toni Preckwinkle with 15 percent favoring no endorsement. The mayoral runoff is April 2.

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At a City Hall news conference Friday to announce the organization’s endorsement, Balanoff cited the “broken” and “Robin Hood in reverse scheme” of a property tax assessment system administered by “Joe Berrios and his defender Toni Preckwinkle.”

He reminded reporters that Our Revolution Chicago was the “first organization to support” newly elected Assessor Fritz Kaegi.

Another big issue for the group was campaign finance reform. The need to, as Balanoff put it, “change what it takes to get elected” in a “rigged” system becoming a “chase for dollars on all levels of government.”

He noted that Preckwinkle “had a chance to support a small donor match” ordinance championed by Garcia before he left the County Board, but she opposed it. That’s just one of the reasons why the once-close relationship between Preckwinkle and Garcia, her former county board floor leader, has been strained.

“Lori Lightfoot is a supporter of campaign finance reform, and we intend to work with her to get it through the City Council as the next mayor of Chicago. This is how we will take back our government from the special interests,” Balanoff said.

Balanoff’s bill of particulars against Preckwinkle included her decision to give the son of Ald. Edward Burke (14th) “an almost no-show job” at the county’s department of homeland security.

He also mentioned Preckwinkle’s steadfast support for aldermanic privilege, the unwritten rule that gives the local alderman iron-fisted control over zoning in their wards.

“Aldermen should not be like feudal lords in their wards. This is one of the reasons that 33 aldermen since 1973 have gone to jail with another one waiting to be sentenced and one [Burke] having been charged” with attempted extortion, Balanoff said.

“With Toni Preckwinkle, we know what we will get and that is more of the backroom deals of the past. It is machine politics. . . . It is time for a fresh start, fresh ideas and a fresh face. That’s Lori Lightfoot.”

Lightfoot nodded and smiled as Balanoff spoke, then shook his hand and accepted the endorsement.

“Groups like Our Revolution have been working hard in the grassroots to bring the kind of change, open up the system of government, so we can actually get to the ideas that are important to individuals and working-class families in the city,” Lightfoot said.

“People wanted change, but they really didn’t think it was possible. . . . What we are experiencing now, in the aftermath of that [Feb. 26] election . . . is people not only hoping for change, but people seeing that it actually could happen. And it’s right within our grasp.”

Preckwinkle countered with the endorsement of “The People’s Lobby,” which describes itself as a “fast-growing, membership-driven organization” devoted to putting “the needs of people and the planet before the interests of big corporations and the very rich.”

“As Cook County board president, Toni Preckwinkle has a demonstrated history of leading on criminal justice reform, presiding over a decrease of 4,000 people incarcerated in the Cook County jail,” The People’s Lobby wrote in its endorsement.

“Preckwinkle worked to expand access to the county healthcare system, giving 320,000 more people access to health care.”