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Underdog Alderman Pawar Seeks To Challenge Rauner In 2018 Governor's Race

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jan 3, 2017 5:58PM

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th Ward) / Facebook

It’s official: the City Council member who made his name with a long-shot victory in a 2011 aldermanic race wants to take on Bruce Rauner in an even longer-shot bid for top pol in the state. Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th Ward) announced on Tuesday that he’ll run for governor of Illinois in 2018.

Pawar made the announcement in an interview with NBC Chicago’s Ward Room, taking the opportunity to take thinly veiled shot at the wealthy GOP incumbent. “I am running because we’ve gotten to a point in this country where wealth worship is the only qualifier for public office, trumping public policy,” Pawar said in the interview. “Chopping benefits or declaring strategic bankruptcy or selling companies off in pieces for profit is somehow seen as the secret ingredient for an Illinois utopia.”

Pawar faces a steep uphill climb, both politically and financially. When Pawar first hinted at the possibility of a run back in November of last year, Pawar had only about $58,000 in the campaign war chest. Compare that to his Republican rival, who recently self-financed a whopping $50 million for a second-term bid. From a political perspective, Pawar’s Chicago roots would no doubt be a liability downstate, where some voters at times seem happy to Brexit away any financial link from our city.

Speaking with the Tribune, Pawar wore the campaign-funding gap like a badge of honor. "I'm going to go out and raise money, but I don't run in the circles where you can take in huge checks," Pawar told the paper. "I know that. That's OK. But I look at Bruce Rauner's $50 million contribution to himself, and people use that to tell me that what I'm trying to do is ridiculous. But writing yourself a $50 million check when you have no record — in fact a destructive record — is nothing to be proud of.

At the same time, Pawar is of course well-known for the Rocky-esque underdog victory that propelled him to this point. Despite his opponent having support from the politically powerful in Chicago (including Rahm), Pawar handily defeated the heavily-favored Tommy O’Donnell in 2011 to become alderman of the 47th Ward. And since his time on the City Council, Pawar has been a vocal advocate for state CPS funding.

It didn't take long for the Illinois Republican party to fire at Pawar's record after he made his announcement. "Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar is the very definition of an out-of-touch, tax-hiking politician just like Mike Madigan," said spokesman Steven Yaffe in a press release. "While job-crushing tax increases without reform has caused an exodus from Illinois, Pawar doubled down on the Madigan Chicago agenda, supporting higher income taxes, higher property taxes, and even a tax on our drinking water."

This post has been updated.