Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) has dropped out of the governor’s race, saying he simply doesn’t have the money to compete statewide against wealthy competitors.
“We raised $828,000 from 2,600 donors. But we don’t have enough money to meaningfully scale our campaign,” Pawar told the Chicago Sun-Times after announcing his decision in an email to supporters.
“I had two options: Cut staff, which is not an option or, two, take on personal debt and I’m not wealthy. I’m sorry for the people who supported me that I don’t have the wealth or connections to keep going.”
Speculation abounds that Pawar’s now-defunct populist campaign for governor could be a prelude to a 2019 race for mayor against incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“Politics today is very fluid. It’s unpredictable. You never know. … I’m never gonna say no. There’s always a chance. But I literally just got off the road after 10 months. It’s been really hard on all of us. It took a lot of sacrifice by my family,” he said.
“I’m not ruling anything out. I just don’t want to talk about another office or another race today or any time in the near future. But I can tell you I’m not done in politics. I’m sure that I will run again.”
A natural alternative for supporters of Pawar’s populist campaign is progressive State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston). But Pawar said he is not prepared to endorse any of his opponents “at this time.”
Pawar knew when he got into the governor’s race that he would be up against a lot of money in the Democratic primary; billionaire J.B. Pritzker and millionaire Chris Kennedy also are seeking the Democratic nomination.
But what he didn’t know and had to learn the hard way was just how tough it would be to raise enough money to be competitive in a statewide campaign.
In his email, Pawar noted that “the race for Illinois governor will set a record as the costliest race in American history. For democracy’s sake, I hope we see this as a troubling trend. My donors did the best they could, I’m the one who came up short, but I am not ashamed.”
Pawar, 37, said he was starting a political action committee, called One Illinois, to organize young people around progressive causes.
“I hope to see the other campaigns starting to talk about mass commutations for low-level, non-violent drug offenders. I’m hoping that they start talking about a massive capital plan that focuses on the South and West sides of Chicago, East St. Louis and Cairo. Those are the issues I’m gonna be going out there and talking about. And we’ll see what happens,” he told the Sun-Times.
Young, gutsy and smart, Pawar knows city issues after two terms on the City Council. He led the drive for tax increment financing reform, mandatory sick days and a council budget analyst. He even pushed to cut the council in half.
Pawar, whose parents came from India in the 1970s, can’t be underestimated. He won his first term at age 30 in an upset against a candidate handpicked by retiring Ald. Eugene Schulter. Pawar then won re-election in 2015 with 83 percent of the vote.
On Thursday, Pawar said he has no intention of running for a third-term and violating his self-imposed two-term limit.
“Ald. Pawar has been a strong voice on the city council, not just for his ward but for Chicago,” Emanuel said in a statement. “While he may have ended his bid for the governor’s office I have no doubt his commitment to public service and his commitment to using his voice to stand up for others will continue.”
In announcing his run in January, Pawar said he decided to run partly based on President Donald Trump’s victory, and also what he’s seen in terms of the state’s budget crisis. And he acknowledged that he’d have to battle an onslaught of contributions from Gov. Bruce Rauner and his supporters.