Warren calls for ‘big, structural change’ at town hall in Edgewater

Thousands of supporters endured a cold drizzle for hours to get inside the Broadway Armory on the North Side to hear Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plans for the country.

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Iowa earlier this week. She appeared Saturday night at a town hall on the North Side in the Edgewater neighborhood.

Getty file photo

Bursting onto a stage with her trademark energy Saturday night at the Broadway Armory in Edgewater, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said fixing a government that works not only for the rich but also for the rest of the country would require “big, structural change.”

Thousands of Warren supporters — and more than a few Democratic voters who said they haven’t made up their minds — were packed tight into the armory’s gymnasium. Some had waited hours outside the venue in a cold, November drizzle to get into the event, which marked Warren’s third appearance in the city this year after stopping by to support striking teachers in October and holding a town hall in June.

Earlier in the day, Warren’s campaign announced the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, whose 9th Congressional District covers several North Side neighborhoods and northern suburbs.

Schakowsky introduced Warren to a thundering applause when she declared Warren’s election as president would usher in “the most progressive period in modern history.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) speaks to a crowd at a town hall Saturday at the Broadway Armory in Edgewater.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) speaks to a crowd at a town hall Saturday at the Broadway Armory in Edgewater.

Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

Warren, 70, climbed the stage to embrace Schakowsky as Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” blared. She joked that, “Only in Chicago is the big Saturday night entertainment politics,” and promised to stay for “selfies.”

Shifting to a hushed, confessional tone, Warren told the story of her hardscrabble upbringing in Oklahoma, where she said a minimum-wage job used to be able to support a family of three.

“Today, a full-time, minimum-wage job in America will not keep a momma and baby out of poverty. That is wrong,” Warren said to one of the night’s biggest applause lines.

For more than an hour, Warren laid out her familiar campaign platforms to a receptive audience, calling for universal childcare and pre-kindergarten, Medicare for All and the cancelation of student loan debt, all paid for, in part, by a wealth tax on multimillionaires and billionaires and a reworking of the tax code to make the wealthy pay what she calls a fair share by closing loopholes.

“You’re gonna be shocked to hear this, but there are some millionaires who take a real exception to me,” Warren said.

Warren avoided mentioning her Democratic rivals and barely referenced President Donald Trump, instead focusing on her three goals if elected: “attack corruption, bring structural change and protect our democracy.”

Christine Lewis, 43, of Beverly, came to the event Saturday with her daughter, Tenny, a 9-year-old Girl Scout.

Lewis said Warren was her first choice among candidates, drawn to the senator’s economic policies. However, she said, Warren’s wealth tax wasn’t one of them, despite the idea drawing bipartisan support from a majority of Americans, according to recent polling.

“I’m not sure the wealth tax is the way to go. I’ve heard it’s been tried in other countries and people just left,” Lewis said. “But we do need to find a way to make everyone pay their fair share. Multimillionaires won’t miss their money if they pay more.”

Lewis was one of the few people who talked to the Sun-Times who said she hasn’t been closely following the Democratic primary. She said she was broadly supportive of all the Democratic candidates but noted South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden were low on her “enthusiasm” scale.

Julie Donalek with her husband, Peter, at Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s town hall Saturday night in Edgewater.

Julie Donalek with her husband, Peter, at Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s town hall Saturday night in Edgewater.

Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

Julie Donalek, 77, and her husband, Peter, 80, said they were divided over their support. In the last election, Peter said he supported Sen. Bernie Sanders, but this time was more drawn to Warren, whose policies he said ticked every box for him.

Julie Donalek, though, unlike many of her fellow attendees, said she supported Buttigieg as her first choice.

“I like my health insurance,” she said. “And [Warren’s] not going to be able to pass Medicare for All, even if she’s elected.”

Trevon Spear, 24, waits for Sen. Elizabeth Warren to take the stage Saturday night for a town hall at the Broadway Armory in Edgewater.

Trevon Spear, 24, waits for Sen. Elizabeth Warren to take the stage Saturday night. “Warren is my second choice,” Spears said. “but I wanted to hear more of what she has to say.”

Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

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