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Reclaim Chicago Hits The Streets To Get Out The Vote For Progressive Candidates

Michael Joyce, Progress Illinois, 3/21/16

Reclaim Chicago hit the streets Tuesday to get-out-the-vote for their endorsed candidates, which include U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for president and Kim Foxx for Cook County State's Attorney.

"Turnout is going to be a key factor for many of the candidates we endorsed," Reclaim Chicago Executive Director David Hatch said. "The recent resurgence of Bernie Sanders has given our volunteers a boost and our voters more incentive to get to the polls."

Reclaim Chicago has played a critical role in helping candidates get elected in the past, according to one endorsed candidate for 35th Ward committeeman.

"I was elected to the Chicago City Council because of Reclaim Chicago," said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th). "They knocked thousands of doors. They made sure people in my ward knew I was the candidate for working class people, not the billionaire class."

Reclaim Chicago has endorsed the following candidates in the primary election:

Bernie Sanders for President of the U.S.; Kim Foxx, Cook County State's Attorney; Omar Aquino, IL State Sen., D-2; Juliana Stratton, IL State Rep., D-5; Theresa Mah, IL State Rep., D-2 ; Rep. Will Guzzardi, IL State Rep., D-39; Rep. Christian Mitchell, IL State Rep, D-26

Ald. Sue Sadlowski-Garza, Committeeman, 10th Ward; Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Committeeman, 35th Ward; Dianne Daleiden, Committeeman, 40th Ward; and Ald. John Arena, Committeeman, 45th Ward.

Over the weekend, Reclaim Chicago held a GOTV rally that touched on issues including prison reform, democratic socialism, and the canceled Trump rally.

Foxx, a former Cook County Assistant State's Attorney, spoke at the rally, with prison and legal reform being keystones for her speech, eliciting raucous applause from the audience on numerous occasions. Foxx is challenging incumbent Anita Alvarez, who has come under fire for her handling of the Laquan McDonald police shooting case.

Foxx lamented Cook County's reputation as the false confession capital of the country, and took aim at the large amount of money that has been paid out to victims of police misconduct. She also said minority communities are oppressed under current policies and laws that promote "isolation and destabilization."

Foxx called for a shift in perception around drug related offenders, saying oftentimes these cases would be better handled by the health system than the penal system, noting that offenders are often suffering greatly due to their addictions.

While the office of State's Attorney has often been used to scare the public with the notion of a "boogeyman" around every corner, Foxx sees the issue as being more complex.

"The office ignored the fact that our criminal justice system is filled with people who are hurting and suffering," said Foxx. "Both victims and offenders. We have in our jail people who are struggling with drug addiction and mental health issues, who are struggling with issues of poverty."

Foxx acknowledged the school-to-prison pipeline, where many children wind up in the legal system over poor behavior at school.

"This affects so many of our young people of color and traps them up with petty offenses," said Foxx. "You fingerprint them and take their mugshot at 12 or 13, for fights on the school yard, and this disrupts their potential for the rest of their lives. We have to stop that."

Foxx said she was grateful to Reclaim Chicago for being aware of the responsibilities of State's Attorney, and recalled the grueling interview she went through before getting their endorsement.

Jan Rodolfo, Midwest director of National Nurses United and chair of the Reclaim Chicago Board, told Progress Illinois about the interview.

"We grilled her for an hour and a half," Rodolfo said. "There is no foregone conclusion that we'll endorse any candidate, if they don't have our values and commit the way that we need them to because we're going to invest a huge amount of time and energy into the candidates that we support."

David Hatch, executive director of Reclaim Chicago, explained that Reclaim has been locked in disputes with Alvarez over several of her policies, so they knew exactly on which issues they wanted to press Foxx.

"We asked her a lot about her bond and bail policy," said Hatch. "We asked her about radical ideas like whether drugs should be a mental health issue and not a criminal issue, and she agreed with us."

Hatch was also keen to know if Foxx would support public defenders, saying their resources are already stretched incredibly thin.

"The average person who needs a public defender gets about seven seconds with their defender," said Hatch. "You can't get a lot of justice from seven seconds with an attorney to plea bargain your case."

Apart from Foxx, there were several other Reclaim Chicago candidates at the event, including Illinois state Reps. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) and Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) and Ramirez-Rosa.

Mitchell denounced Rauner for the effects of the budgetary stalemates, particularly the resulting financial state of emergency at Chicago State University.

"We've got Chicago State University who serves primarily people who look like me who need a second chance," said Mitchell. "If it were any other university, we wouldn't be having this conversation, but because they look like me, we are."

The event didn't strictly deal with Illinois politics, also touching on the presidential election.

Toby Chow, chair of The People's Lobby USA, explained that traditional Democratic politicians like Hilary Clinton don't have the necessary appeal to beat Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.

"We're building a progressive political revolution," explained Chow. "With this revolution we will sweep away these reactionaries like Trump. We will move beyond establishment politicians like Anita Alvarez and Hillary Clinton, who represents a past that we need to leave behind"

Chow attended the canceled Trump rally held at the UIC Pavilion Friday night.

"There was a lot of progressive anti-Trump people there," said Chow. "It turns out there were so many of us that big, mean, Donald Trump got intimidated and he ran away."

Guzzardi spoke to Progress Illinois about why he thinks Trump has found an audience in so many Americans.

"People across this country are angry, and Donald Trump tells them a story about why things are so screwed up," says Guzzardi. "He says its the Mexican's fault, and the Muslim's fault, and the immigrant's fault, and we've gotta make America great again, and in the absence of another story that can be very compelling, People listen to him. People love to have someone to blame."

Guzzardi says this is why it's so important that Democratic politicians provide an alternate story to Trump's rhetoric.

"The responsibility of our movement is to tell the real story," said Guzzardi. "It's not the fault of Mexican immigrants, it's the fault of the folks who have taken the majority of the new wealth in the country over the last 30 years. The very rich at the top. They're the ones who have taken the dream away from us. We have to demand to get it back."

Original Post: http://www.progressillinois.com/quick-hits/content/2016/03/15/reclaim-chicago-hits-streets-get-out-vote-progressive-candidates

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