Chicago workers deserve representation, too

March 9, 2015

Tyler Zimmer introduces an Election Night speech by Tim Meegan, an independent candidate for alderman in Chicago's 33rd ward and a prime example of the backlash against the Democratic Party machine in the city ruled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

ELECTIONS IN Chicago city politics aren't usually anything to get excited about. Year after year, the same roster of Democrat Party "machine" candidates dominates every aspect of city government.

This year's election on February 24 was different. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, despite his reputation as a national political powerbroker, his support from the Democratic Party establishment and a war chest stuffed with donations from the rich, was forced into a runoff by challenger Jesús "Chuy" García, who has the backing of much of the Latino community as well as the Chicago Teachers Union.

While García remains tied to one wing of the Democratic Party in Chicago--like most of the progressive candidates who will take on incumbents in a record number of runoff elections for alderman on April 7--there are several left-wing candidates who have declared their independence from the Democrats.

Key among them is public school teacher and CTU activist Tim Meegan, who ran for alderman in the 33rd ward against incumbent Deb Mell, a mayoral appointee whose father controlled the ward for generations before handing the office to his daughter. Despite reports of irregularities at the polls, dirty tricks during the campaign and mounds of cash from Emanuel's super-PAC, Meegan forced a runoff in the 33rd ward.

Tim Meegan
Tim Meegan

Or so it appeared after Election Night. Several days later, Mell's campaign announced that it had found absentee ballots that put her a mere two votes over 50 percent--just enough to avoid a runoff. Meegan's campaign is contesting this result in court, while taking the Mell campaign to task for what it says were improper actions on Election Day. As this introduction was being written, Meegan was moving full steam ahead for the runoff, and the prospects of winning the legal battle seemed good.

Meegan's strong showing on February 24 was historic. His campaign--driven by a dedicated team of activists, unionists, teachers and students who sought to get out the vote--shows that left-wing politics, independent of both the corporate-controlled mainstream parties, are viable in Chicago and beyond. Meegan gave the speech below to a crowd of supporters at an Election Night party, moments after learning that the race would go to a runoff.

Election Night Speech by Tim Meegan

I AM for the working class.

We can no longer rely on politicians to...hell, they don't even pay lip service to our concerns anymore. We've got two parties that are basically the same, that serve the interests of big business. But we are working-class people, and we deserve representation, too.

And that's why we need to build an independent political movement. From the very beginning, when we started this campaign around my kitchen table in January of 2014, we knew that it must be...that we are not Republicans. That we are not Democrats.

We are independent; we are working people. We are going to stand for working-class issues and the things that working class people and their families care about.

And that means: raising minimum wage; making sure there is enough affordable housing in a gentrifying neighborhood; making sure that our schools are fully funded and resourced; and making sure that we stop charter expansion. That we take care and invest in our neighborhood schools, and that we end privatization of city assets in general. Every time we sell off a piece of this city for a quick short-term cash infusion, we are also selling off future generations of Chicagoans who no longer will own that public asset.

Apparently, we're in a runoff. We have a situation of a regular teacher guy, from the neighborhood, who is in a runoff with one of the most entrenched and powerful political families, not just in the city, but the state of Illinois. A family that made--and then broke--a governor, right?

We have a tremendous opportunity in front of us, and a tremendous responsibility to everybody that we represent.

We have six weeks. And I believe that we can beat Deb Mell. [Crowd: Yes!]

Do you think we can beat her? [Crowd: Yes!]

Do you want to beat her? [Crowd: Yes!]

Are you ready to work? [Crowd: Yes!]

Well, let's get to work. Let's get to work, let's beat the Mell family. No to dynasty and machine politics, up with the working class!

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