Socialist Surge: DSA-Backed Candidates Nab Wins in Chicago Election

The election of Chicago’s first black female and openly gay mayor—Lori Lightfoot—grabbed national headlines, but it was not the only noteworthy outcome of the city’s runoff election Tuesday.

Voters chose three—possibly four —democratic socialists to be part of the Chicago City Council, potentially raising the number of ideologically aligned left-wingers on the council to six.

Their victories, coupled with those of two other democratic socialists in the first round earlier this year, mark “the largest socialist electoral victory in modern American history,” wrote author and Jacobin managing editor Micah Uetricht.

Community organizer Jeanette Taylor nabbed nearly 60 percent of the vote to win the seat in the 20th Ward. Another community organizer, Byron Sigcho-Lopez, secured 54 percent of the vote to take the 25th Ward’s aldermanic seat. In the 40th Ward, progressive Andre Vasquez defeated a nine-term incumbent and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s floor leader, securing roughly 54 percent of the vote.

The city council could have another candidate with the backing of the Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, activist Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez, but the 33rd Ward race is still too close to call.

Those victories follow wins in the first round of elections in February by two other democratic socialists: Carlos Ramirez-Rosa in the 35th Ward and Daniel La Spata in the first.

The aldermen will serve four-year terms on the 50-seat council, which will now have at least 10 percent of its members Chicago Democratic Socialists of America.

“As democratic socialists, we’re ready to build a Chicago for all of us, not just a wealthy few,” said Lucie Macías, one of two Chicago DSA co-chairs, in a statement on Wednesday. “Our Chicago for All platform is based on three main planks: Housing for all, Sanctuary for all, and Education for all. We’re excited to build a socialist caucus in city hall to carry out this agenda and fight for Chicago’s working class.”

All the Chicago DSA-backed candidates, Uetricht wrote at the Guardian, “ran as unabashed fighters against corporate greed and austerity and for the city’s working class.”

“Political observers and organizers should take these victories as a lesson,” he said, and not just for what they say about voters in the City of Big Shoulders.

“Throughout the country, people are tired of low wages, skyrocketing housing costs, privatization of public goods, budget cuts, and corporate giveaways of public money. They have tried austerity and found it miserable.”

“If Chicago’s elections are any indication,” he said, “maybe they’re ready to try socialism.”

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