Ameya Pawar, 47th Ward alderman, to run for governor in 2018

Sarah Schulte Image
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar announces bid for IL governor
Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar plans to run for Illinois governor.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar announced Tuesday that he will run for Illinois governor.

Pawar, who represents the 47th ward, tweeted his plans at 10:31 a.m., noting that the decision comes with the "blessing of his wife and best friend."

The 36-year-old is the first and only Asian American on the Chicago City Council and had mentioned in the past he'd run as a progressive Democrat.

"I'm just getting started. I'll start raising money but I realize there is a challenge there," said Pawar, the son of Indian American immigrant parents who represents a predominantly white North Side ward.

After barely winning election in 2011, he won more than 82 percent of the vote there four years later, the largest margin of any alderman in 2015. When he was first elected to the city council, he promised that he would only serve two terms.

Pawar has less than $60,000 in his campaign fund. Money would be a big challenge as Pawar could face possible Democratic contenders, wealthy businessman J.B. Pritzker and Christopher Kennedy. In a general election, he will likely face GOP incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner, who already has a multimillion dollar campaign war chest.

He said the divisive nature of the November election motivated him to run.

"In Illinois in the last 2 years, we've been pitting Chicago against downstate, central Illinois and that has a corrosive impact," Pawar said.

Pawar, who holds two master's degrees in administration from the University of Chicago, hopes to bring the state together on the issue of equitable education funding.

A statement from the Illinois Republican Party blasted Pawar, saying that he is "the very definition of an out-of-touch, tax-hiking politician just like Mike Madigan," who is the Democratic speaker of the state House.

While Bruce Ruaner's strategy is linking Democrat candidates to Madigan, Pawar makes no apologies for a progressive agenda that includes a higher tax on millionaires, noting that he believes government is aspirational.

"I believe in protecting the consumer and I believe government is a force for good," he said.

Pawar's most notable constituent is Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who would not endorse him, but praised Pawar's intellect and desire.

"I think he should stay in City Council, but if his desire is to go somewhere else in service, he's built a record that's worthy of it," Emanuel said.

The gubernatorial election will be in 2018.