Just hours after Ald. Ameya Pawar announced plans to challenge Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2018, the Illinois GOP promptly released a statement calling Pawar a "tax-hiking politician just like Mike Madigan."
In his statement, Illinois Republican Party spokesman Steven Yaffe called Pawar "out of touch" and criticized his previous stance on taxes.
"While job-crushing tax increases without reform has caused an exodus from Illinois, Pawar doubled down on the Madigan Chicago agenda, supporting higher income taxes, higher property taxes, and even a tax on our drinking water," Yaffe wrote.
The statement quoted Pawar as saying, “I don’t believe we’re overtaxed in Illinois…I think we’re under taxed.”
But the Chicago alderman argued that's not the case, noting that he and his wife are members of the middle class and "pay more than our fair share" of taxes.
"When I say undertaxed I mean the wealthy are undertaxed," he told NBC 5. "We have a very aggressive tax structure, we’re really talking about reform. Let’s talk about equitable public education funding by making sure the wealthy pay their fair share."
The 47th Ward alderman, a liberal (progressive, if you prefer) announced in an exclusive interview with NBC Chicago’s Ward Room, that he plans to run against Rauner in the next election.
“I am running because we’ve gotten to a point in this country where wealth worship is the only qualifier for public office, trumping public policy. Chopping benefits or declaring strategic bankruptcy or selling companies off in pieces for profit is somehow seen as the secret ingredient for an Illinois utopia,” said Pawar.
The case he plans to make? In his words, “Government should be aspirational. People like to tell us how terrible government is but it was the federal government after the Great Depression that created the middle class. And sent a man to the moon.”
Still, the Illinois GOP claimed Pawar said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's budget, including a $598 million property tax increase was, "the right thing to do."
"I understand their response, because $50 million buys a lot of negativity and you know that’s OK," Pawar said. "The upper middle class all the way down to the working middle class to the poor are all in the same boat, we pay more than our fair share [of taxes]."
Pawar, an Indian-American, holds three graduate degrees in urban planning, disaster management and social policy.
Pawar, for his part, has tried to be a consensus builder in City Council. Sometimes to his credit, sometimes not. But he has worked hard, been thoughtful, and so far, is still idealistic enough not to be under the yoke of the Mayor nor a member of the Old Guard. Nor is he a full partner of the Progressive Caucus.
One of his greatest fights has been in behalf of quality public high schools in his ward.
Does Pawar have the wherewithal to go up against the potential primary election cash of Democratic billionaires (Chris Kennedy & JB Pritzker)? Or to take on, maybe, a couple of state senators (Kwame Raoul & Andy Manar), a pair of congresswomen (Robin Kelly & Cheri Bustos) or an Attorney General named Madigan?
He’s decided to try.