An outside group hoping to elect City Council candidates it sees as pragmatists geared up its campaign over the weekend, launching ads in five wards. So far, its focus is on helping three appointees of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and going after two candidates who are members of the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America.
The Get Stuff Done PAC — an independent expenditure committee chaired by Michael Ruemmler, an advisor to former Mayor Rahm Emanuel — has raised $1.2 million since its official formation in early December, according to the state board of elections. The group is launching a series of digital ads and sending out mailers supporting 11th Ward Ald. Nicole Lee, 12th Ward Ald. Anabel Abarca, and 24th Ward Ald. Monique Scott. All are appointees of Lightfoot that were selected to fill City Council vacancies.
The PAC also plans to support Aida Flores in the 25th Ward in her race to unseat incumbent Ald. Byron Sigcho Lopez, and the group is opposing Nick Ward in the North Side’s 48th Ward, a crowded 10-way race. Both Ward and Sigcho Lopez are endorsed by the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America.
Ruemmler previously told the Tribune the group was “looking for workhorses, not show horses,” describing the group’s ideal candidates as “Obama Democrats” who have the best interests of the city at heart, not their own ambitions.
While the bulk of donations to the PAC come from leaders in the investment, business and development world, a significant chunk is also from organized labor.
Another former Emanuel donor and confidant, Michael Sacks of Grosvenor Capital Management, contributed $500,000 to Get Stuff Done PAC, while $200,000 came from the political action committee for the laborer’s union, LiUNA (a group that backed Susana Mendoza for mayor in 2019, then Lightfoot in the runoff).
Henry Crown & Co. heir Lester Crown and his son James Crown each donated $100,000, and Sterling Bay’s Keating Crown, Lester Crown’s grandson, gave $25,000. Duchossois Group CEO Craig Duchossois and the Illinois Restaurant Association PAC both gave $50,000.
Independent expenditure committees are barred from coordinating directly with campaigns, but the PAC did send out a candidate questionnaire to determine who it would support or oppose. The survey asked several questions about crime, including whether candidates supported “getting more good cops on the beat, prosecuting and convicting criminals, and reducing crime as quickly as possible,” and supported defunding the police. The survey also asked whether candidates would “vote against the budget even if it didn’t include every single thing that you want?” and whether they would prioritize incentives for “companies to move to the city and create new jobs”.
While it might look like the candidates participated in filming of the digital ads, the PAC’s spokesman, Ron Holmes, told the Tribune the videos and images were pulled from the public domain: Flores and Lee’s videos, for example, come from Facebook, Holmes said.
An advisory group helped choose who would get the PAC’s support. Its members include Lisa Duarte, an attorney who was an assistant deputy governor for Gov. J.B. Pritkzer and served on a nonprofit that plugged Chicago Public Schools during Emanuel’s tenure; Jen Martinez-Roth, a former Emanuel spokeswoman who now works for the Cubs; former Chicago election commissioner and congressional candidate Jonathan Swain; Corey Thames, who served in city government and now runs his own public affairs firm; and Sarah Ware, president of the Chicago Association of Realtors.
More money is likely to flow to help other incumbents, but the group has pledged to stay out of the mayoral race.
A digital video ad for Lee, who faces six challengers in the 11th Ward, notes she is “strengthening our neighborhoods by investing in community policing to put more officers on the street, increasing funding for our schools, and repairing our roads and transit.”
A mailer supporting Flores, who ran for the same 25th Ward seat seat in 2019 but came in fourth, is in English and Spanish and notes she was born and raised in Pilsen. A digital ad plays up her experience as a teacher and assistant principal at CPS and an endorsement from mayoral contender and U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
While many of those involved come from the Emanuel and Pritzker universe, Holmes, the owner of the consulting firm Majority-Minority who has worked for several Democrats statewide, said its donors and advisory members “represent workers, business people and Chicagoans from neighborhoods across the city. We’re backing candidates that have won on behalf of their constituents and will win at the ballot box,” he said in an email to the Tribune.
“Our work is centered around a premise we can all agree on: electing a city council that reflects the will of the majority of Chicagoans. There’s universal agreement that we have to do what we can to make Chicago safer and increase economic opportunity in every neighborhood of the city,” Holmes said.
Are are candidate aligned with Chicago Democratic Socialists of America-aligned a threat to “getting stuff done?” Holmes said “Chicagoans aren’t a monolith, and we’re supporting candidates across the political spectrum that will best deliver for their wards.”