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Hundreds Pack South Loop Bar For Sanders' Illinois Campaign Launch

By aaroncynic in News on Feb 15, 2016 3:10PM

A Sanders supporter warms up the crowd ahead of speeches at Bernie Sanders' Illinois campaign launch party. Photo by Aaron Cynic/Chicagoist
The air may have been frigid outside, but inside Bar Louie in the South Loop, the temperature was practically sweltering as hundreds filled the bar for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders official state campaign launch. Plenty of well known Chicago Democrats and progressives turned up Saturday morning for the kickoff, and some supporters of the Vermont Senator's bid for the Democratic nomination came from as far away as suburban Aurora, Rockford and Kankakee.

“We’re going to wage a comprehensive vigorous campaign across Illinois as we work to earn every single vote,” said Clem Balanoff, the Illinois Director for the Sanders campaign.

Bernie Sanders Illinois' Campaign Director Clem Balanoff addresses a packed room of supporters at Bar Louie in the South Loop. Photo by Aaron Cynic/Chicagoist.

Balanoff told the tightly packed crowd of supporters offices would be opening in the coming weeks in at least a dozen areas across the state including Evanston, Dekalb, Rockford, Springfield, and more. The Chicago campaign headquarters will be located on Jefferson Avenue in the South Loop, across the street from Manny’s Deli.

“This is about bringing the people into the White House,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, a delegate for Sanders, who highlighted Sanders’ immigration platform and willingness to consult with and include input from undocumented immigrants on his campaign as a reason for his support. “He’s not just saying I’m going when the polls say it’s time to take a stance I’m going to take a stance, he’s saying I’m going to build power for working people alongside you.”

Sporting a red Chicago Teacher’s Union sweatshirt, Tara Stamps, who ran for alderman in the 37th Ward, reminded the audience of the relationship between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Hillary Clinton. “Emanuel is a superdelegate for Hillary,” she said, which the audience met with loud boos at the mention of the mayor’s name. “This is the same man that closed 50 schools...this is personal.”

Clinton, who is also opening campaign offices in Chicago this month as well as hosting several high-dollar fundraisers later this week, downplayed her support of Emanuel when asked about his relationship with the African-American community and policing in an interview with Meet the Press last month, saying:

“Mayor Emanuel has said that he is committed to complete and total reform and I think he should be held to that standard. It’s going to be up to him and up to the people of Chicago" to prove his credibility.”

The former Secretary of State, who was born in Chicago and grew up in Illinois leads the Vermont Senator in a new poll published by the conservative website The Daily Caller, but the numbers put Sanders within striking distance for the Illinois primary on March 15. According to the poll of 846 people planning to vote in the primary by McKeon & Associates, Clinton is ahead of Sanders by 11 percent with 36.4, but more than 38 percent say they’re still undecided.

Two Sanders supporters pose for a selfie in the crowd at the Bernie Sanders Illinois campaign launch party.

Those among the crowd in Bar Louie were firmly behind Bernie Sanders. Elizabeth Lindquist of Rosoe Illinois, a small town wedged between the Wisconsin border and Rockford Illinois, said she supported Sanders because of his commitment to removing money from politics. “I believe Bernie is the candidate that can be trusted to do something about that issue, even if other candidates say they have a plan about that,” said Lindquist.

For Richard Way, an Aurora man who worked construction trying to start his own remodeling business, the issue is economics.

“I’ve been working hard every year, maybe harder every year and I’m back to making the same money I did when I got out of high school,” said Way, who holds a weekly meeting for Sanders supporters. Way said getting involved with the Sanders campaign was the first time he’s been politically active in supporting a candidate, and that many of those who come to his meetings are newer to politics as well.

“We’re not choosing between the lesser of two evils in this election, this is a guy we want to win.”