Ald. Ameya Pawar told Politico Tuesday that he may challenge Gov. Bruce Rauner in the Illinois' 2018 gubernatorial election.
“I’m not ready to say I’m in, but I’m close,” Pawar said.
The Democrat, who first ran for 47th Ward alderman in 2011, would face an uphill battle against Rauner, who would likely hold a strong fundraising advantage.
“In 2011, I ran for office and people laughed at me,” Pawar told Politico. “I took on the machine and I beat it.”
Nevertheless, Pawar's $58,000 in campaign funds pales in comparison to the governor’s reported $188 million in gross income from 2015.
During the Politico interview, Pawar said he was partially inspired to run to counter the divisive, partisan tone and tenor of the recent election cycle. In addition, he said the current political climate lacks “statesmanship."
"We’ve had a set of politics pitting one group against another. I don’t think that’s productive,” Pawar said. “I think it’s time we have a progressive campaign governor.”
Pawar claimed he has no real ties to the state’s Democratic power structure, noting that he has only met House Speaker Michael Madigan once. In the past election cycle, Rauner and his political allies spent millions in an attempt to link Democratic candidates to the powerful speaker.
The alderman will reportedly make his final decision about a potential run in the near future. According to the Politico report, he’s weighing the prospect as he and his wife raise their infant daughter.
Pawar joins a growing list of potential Democratic challengers to Rauner that already includes Rep. Robin Kelly and state Sen. Kwame Raoul, who have both expressed interest.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the list of potential candidates also includes Gov. Pat Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, state Treasurer Michael Frerichs, and state Sen. Daniel Biss. Additionally, Rep. Cheri Bustos’ name has also been floated.
On top of the list of established politicians, a pair of big-pocketed political newcomers, billionaire J.B. Pritzker and businessman Chris Kennedy, have also reportedly expressed interest in challenging the governor in 2018. During Tuesday's interview, Pawar admitted that he couldn't compete with their wealth, but pointed out that he ran a succesful aldermanic campaign on a shoestring budget in 2011.
"There's a tendency to throw a bunch of money at the problem, throw money at the airwaves and crucify one another," Pawar told Politico. "There's isn't a lot of going out and talking to one another."
“I don’t worship wealth and I’m not scared of wealth," he added.