Left Candidate Defeated in Chicago’s 25th Ward Alderman Race

Candidate # of Votes % of Total
Danny Solis 3,811 51.1
Byron Sigcho 1,383 18.5
Jorge Mujica 907 12.2
Roberto “Beto” Montano 748 10.0
Ed Hershey 614 8.2

Source.

Splitting the left anti-Rahm vote three ways was clearly a mistake. Hopefully the lessons of this campaign will be discussed at what looks to be a promising left electoral conference in May.

Some background (care of In These Times):

Danny Solis has been alderman of the 25th ward for 19 years, following his work as executive director of the scandal-plagued community organization-turned-charter school operator United Neighborhood Organization. Solis, who votes 97 percent of the time with the mayor, narrowly won a run-off back in 2011 against a relatively unknown challenger.

Now he’s up against a handful of progressive challengers: Jorge Mújica, a longtime labor organizer and immigrant rights activist running as a socialist; Byron Sigcho, former vice president of the Hispanic Literary Council of Chicago and backed by the neighborhood group Pilsen Alliance; and Ed Hershey, a teacher supported by the Chicago Teachers Union.  

Advertisements

21 responses to “Left Candidate Defeated in Chicago’s 25th Ward Alderman Race

  1. Of course it was a mistake, and not the only one. We always insisted that the Chicago Socialist Campaign had to be based on an agreement between the left organizations, but that never happened. but in the end, 1,500 people in a single Ward voted for clearly leftist candidates…

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment brother. You’re right, 1,500 or almost 50% of the vote in a single ward is a great showing. Based on the In These Times report from 2014, it seemed like many left organizations had united around your candidacy.

      Like

      • As the campaign developed, activists joined, both independent and members of organizations, but the only organization who made a decision to endorse and put resources for the campaign was the DSA. Greens, Socialist Party, ISO and other never came up as organizations.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Very sorry to hear that. Kudos to you for persevering in the face of these (self-defeating) difficulties. Hopefully the next election the left will be able to get together behind you or someone else to win the seat.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Found this leaked ISO document by Brian regarding the campaign:

      A Lesson from the Chicago Socialist Campaign

      In reading the excellent election report from the Chicago District and Dan R.’s document in PCB#12 I thought it appropriate to emphasize one lesson drawn from the Chicago Socialist Campaign. I do so because the experience of the CSC has been helpful in thinking through questions about regroupment and the building of a mass party that have increased prominence first because of the Sawant election and secondly because of the recent win of Syriza.

      It was the absolute correct move to get involved with the Chicago Socialist Campaign. The existence of the campaign and Mújica run in the 25th ward opened the door for us to be more involved in the various aldermanic campaigns that we are currently working in as the Chicago document describes. Us doing the work around Mújica allowed us to project ourselves as players in the scene and facilitated us as a district relating to a Chicago aldermanic campaign that still has a movement character as a result of the ramifications of Mayor Emanuel’s cuts and austerity. However it should be noted that CTU president Karen Lewis stepping out of the race has (despite her rightward shift the criticism we had publicly) greatly diminished this character. Despite the progressive gloss that has been slathered upon Garcia and Fioretti their campaigns are radically different than one of a labor leader who won a historic strike.

      There are a number of benefits to our taking part in the Mújica campaign. As a result we can attempt to cohere an infrastructure in the neighborhood beyond the election. The campaign also has helped lay the ground for the upcoming Independent Political Action conference in Chicago. Within the campaign a number of comrades are now trained in the skill set of electoral work. Lastly a good turnout for Mújica will help function as an argument within CTU for the need and viability for a space left of the Democrats.

      However, the campaign has also been very difficult work. The day to day work of maintaining a political campaign has a strong tendency to draw comrades’ time away from political tasks. Instead it is tireless work largely of the day-to-day nit and grit of running a campaign. While from the outside the campaign has projected well, within the campaign it has been more messy..

      The Chicago Socialist Campaign was initiated by a member of Socialist Alternative and an ex-member of Solidarity. After about three very successful meetings last spring (about 50, 100, and 50) the number in attendance dropped dramatically and was never fully recovered. After a candidate (who wound up running as a Democrat) left the campaign, and as Mújica became identified as the most viable candidate for the campaign, the SAlt member, the ex-member of Solidarity, and another member of Solidarity disappeared entirely. Since the summer the ISO has held down the core of the campaign. If we were not present the CSC probably would have died in the summer. While it is good that we kept it alive and viable there is a tendency for us to substitute for the campaign which exists independent from the tireless work that the comrades within the campaign have carried out.

      Why is this important? There is a perspective that floats around the left (particularly the sectarian antisectarianists in the internet-left) that insists that what is needed in order for the formation of the much desired mass party, or for ‘an American Syriza’ is unity on the left. What often flows from this is that regroupment is the precondition for the building of a mass organization. As though the thing that is holding back the creation of a mass unified socialist party is the disunity of the left and that any project to carry this out must begin with refoundation of existing groups. One of the cautionary lessons of the CSC is that the order of operations described by that perspective is wrong. The prospects for unity in socialist electoral efforts reflect a lot of challenges are often overemphasized.

      In the other campaigns that we were rooted in the city we found that a much more vibrant core of activists grew organically around campaigns that were rooted out of struggles. The Meegan campaign–as the document describes–has been the best performing of the campaigns and has turned out quite an effective volunteer base. This base is the raw material that can be transformed into an activist and political infrastructure post-election. Similarly the Bautista campaign is well rooted in her environmental activism around pet coke in her neighborhood and the Smith campaign on the west side in her profile as a fighter around Fight For 15 and school closures. Mújica had an activist profile but this was often downplayed in the equation of the socialist campaign. He as an individual and the issues had more of a draw than the entity of the socialist unity.

      In the CSC people from existing socialist organizations got together to build a socialist electoral project though they had different conceptions of how and what this was to be. This meant that despite feeling for unity no actual basis for unity existed. Compared with Meegan’s campaign where a trade unionist who happened to be a socialist emphasized the need for political independence from the two parties of capital and for a party explicitly tied to working class organizations (hardly a call for an explicitly socialist organization.) Meegan’s base brought newcomers to activism in Chicago as well as seasoned organized and unorganized socialists. A kind of left unity was achieved without adopting a platform of left unity as a precondition. Additionally this with done with some individuals who began this project not a part of the organized left.

      Unity on the left will be created through participation in struggle. Something akin to regroupment will happen through the creation of a mass party and not the other way around. The Chicago Socialist Campaign with the combined forces of ourselves, SAlt, Solidarity, Socialist Party-USA, and Socialist Organizer would not have resulted in a very different result than the one that occurred. However that could not even happen as most of the other forces left the campaign. This is because of two reasons. The first is that the method of the ISO that we see ourselves as cohering a mass party rather than the ISO becoming the mass party is not a method that is shared by a majority of the left. The second is the objective factor that the left is small. All our energy committed to holding together a tiny motley rabble of socialist groups who do not share our method for organizing a party is better spent organizing with broader forces. This does not mean not organizing with other socialists. We have done so in the Meegan and Bautista campaign. This means that unity of the existing left is not an inviolable principle to be pursued as the precondition for a party. Regroupment pursued in the absence of sustained mass struggle is a pretty sad affair and lends little to the slow patient work of of both organizing with the broader class and developing Marxist cadre trained in our method. What is needed is to continue to do this work and argue with the broader forces for a path towards independent working class organization. There are no shortcuts.

      Like

  2. Pingback: People Will Take Socialism Seriously When Socialists Start Acting Seriously | Revolutionary Democratic Socialism

  3. Some concerns I heard about this campaign from a thousand kilometers away:
    1. Lack of serious fundraising, both initially and throughout the campaign.
    2. Mujica’s previous time as a Democrat, and the lack of messaging that this time he was a “open socialist”
    3. Mujica’s personal unaffiliation with a party. I originally thought he was a member of the ISO, but either his campaign or the ISO said he wasn’t when I reached out.
    4. Socialist Alternative, Sawant’s party, did not have a sizable branch in Chicago at the start of the year, and from what I’ve heard has grown but mostly with inexperienced members. SA-Chicago was thus not a large force, and is growing mostly on its focus around seeing if it can replicate the $15 minimum wage struggle in other cities.
    5. Personally I find the plateform and membership of the DSA friendly and intelligent. Unfortunately I am pretty sure they have not had a history with independent electoral campaigns. I wonder what resources were invested in this campaign, and how.

    Like

    • 1. Hard to have “serious” fund-raising without serious support from various organizations. Kshama Sawant was able to raise tens of thousands of dollars only because she had the institutional support of Socialist Alternative and its 50+ members working (mostly unpaid) around the clock for her. The groups that initially backed Mujica and then pulled out bear a big part of the responsibility for the campaign’s fund-raising problems.
      2. Previous time as a Democrat? You mean like Eugene V. Debs, who was once a Democratic legislature? It was very clear that he was running as a socialist, judging by his campaign video and the Chicago Socialist Campaign website that was created before Mujica was even chosen as the campaign’s candidate.
      3. The fact that Mujica was not affiliated with any existing socialist group should have made it easier for all of the socialist groups to unite behind him. The ISO was hostile and sectarian towards Sawant’s campaign on the grounds that it was a Socialist Alternative recruitment bonanza rather than a genuine joint effort. This pre-text was absent in this case and yet the ISO’s stance was in practice the same.
      4. It’s not necessarily Socialist Alternative fault that they didn’t do much for Mujica, it depends on the context. Because there is no open, frank, and honest discussion among the various socialist grouplets in their publications about their strategies, resources, and organizational priorities, it’s impossible to tell what they could or could not have done. Saying “we are small, we can only contribute one person to this area of work” is much better than writing as Socialist Alternative did that “the Chicago Socialist Campaign, with its candidate Jorge Mujica, basing itself in working class movements, provides an example of what is needed” and then doing little or nothing in practice to further “what is needed.” How can we expect mass organizations like labor unions to get behind and work for candidates that we ourselves refuse to sweat and bleed for?
      5. I am also unsure of what experience DSA has or how strong they are in Chicago, but I do know they backed and worked for Socialist Alternative’s Ty Moore’s campaign out in Minneapolis. Backing and working for socialist candidates should be automatic among socialists and socialist groups. Sadly, it’s not.

      I’ve asked comrade Mujica to comment on your questions so hopefully we’ll hear from him soon.

      Like

  4. 1- Altogether, I think we raised about 20-25 thousand dollars.
    2- The “time as a Democrat” is an old story. In 2009 there was a movement to had me run against blue dog Democratic Party congressman Dan Lipinski, 3rd Congressional District in Illinois. I agreed, and then we all realized that running in the general election was next to impossible, since you need between 20,000 and 26,000 valid signatures to get in the ballot, and you have to get them in 90 days. So, we opted to run in the Democratic Party primary election, for which you only need 400 valid signatures. I hardly think that makes me a “Democrat”… We ended up with 23% of the votes, with only $12,000 raised. The Green party ran a candidate in the general election afterwards, since they had “party status” at that time in Illinois, did not need the signatures, and won about 3% of the vote.
    The lesson? In a district where the real election is not the general but the primary, since the Democratic Party candidate becomes the automatic winner, we should explore that possibility. You don’t have to pledge allegiance to the Democratic Party, you don’t have to support the agenda of the Democratic Party, you can run with a socialist platform and, if you win, you can always “resign” the Democratic Party, even if you never affiliated…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for clarifying brother, especially point 2. Mayor Chokwe Lumumba did something similar in Jackson, MS and came out on top in the general after winning the primary; Bernie Sanders looks poised to do the same thing at the presidential level.

      The strategic question the Green Party needs to answer in your example is why keep running candidates that can only get 5% or less? Why fight if we aren’t fighting to win? I don’t see much sense in running to lose in perpetuity.

      Like

  5. Well, Ed Hershey, teacher, member of Spark, ran in the 25th ward. He says they were running a dozen candidates all over the United States. He was way “to my left”, since he knew he had not a chance in hell to win; it was just a propaganda campaign, although he never states publicly that he was a socialist. In the end, he got some 600 votes.
    The interesting thing is that between him and me, we got about 20.5 % of the vote. But if there had been a runoff, it would have been between the incumbent and the reformist candidate Sigcho. Effectively, Ed Hershey would have benefited the reform candidate, even when he was “to my left”…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds positively bizarre — a candidate to your left but not explicitly socialist? (I’m guessing this is the Spark he is a member of?)

      You describe Sigcho as a reformist — do you mean he is a reform… socialist? Admittedly my grasp of the players and politics is pretty weak since I relied on mainstream/corporate internet outlets rather than an activist/grassroots/on-the-scene perspective since I couldn’t really find any of the latter.

      Like

  6. Nah, Sigcho is simply a liberal, not even left. Liberal-progressive if you want, but a person with future political intentions, meaning he won’t break away with the Democratic Party, since that is the law of the land until we break it. 50 out of 50 councilman in Chicago, plus the mayor, are Democrats. If you want to be in politics in Chicago, you don’t break away with the Dems. It is more or less the line of Chuy Garcia, and I understand it. Chicago’s Democratic Party has left, right, progressives center and every other tendency…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is what I was told by a Chicago DSA member about Solidarity’s involvement in the campaign:

    “I think they don’t have a large number of young people in Chicago. One Solidarity member was the campaign treasurer — did a very good job, knew what a campaign meant in terms of priorities, timing, etc, and we got along well. It was from her that I got the invite for DSA to endorse the “Independent Left Politics Conference” in early May — as you may remember, Chicago DSA did so, although since it coincides with regional strategy meetups and we’re a host chapter, not sure what presence we’ll have.

    Both Solidarity DC members are as old or older than I am and in not as good physical condition so they really couldn’t do the Jan – Feb canvassing. I have never met a young member of Solidarity — but I guess there are some?”

    He also told me that Socialist Alternative doesn’t have much of a Chicago presence.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Should Chicago Unions Have Backed a Socialist Instead of Chuy García? | Revolutionary Democratic Socialism

  9. Pingback: Mujica and the Chicago Socialist Campaign: A Small Battle in a Larger War | Revolutionary Democratic Socialism

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s