Democratic socialists are making a power play in Chicago.
After Tuesday’s runoff elections, a total of four – and possibly five – democratic socialists have won seats for alderman on the city council. This marks the highest number of elected socialists the Second City has had since the 1910s.
Upstart Andre Vasquez beat out Ald. Patrick O’Connor, who serves as outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel's floor leader and the head of the city’s Finance Committee.
“Take a look around the room, we did this!” Vasquez said, according to local news reports. “Every person who knocked on a door and made a phone call … that’s what got us the win tonight.”
Along with Vasquez, Byron Sigcho-Lopez – a democratic socialist and public policy researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago – won his runoff in the 25th Ward after longtime Ald. Danny Solis didn’t seek reelection.
A third democratic socialist candidate, Rosanna Rodriguez-Sanchez, is currently locked in a tight race with longtime Ald. Deb Mell – trailing Mell by only a few dozen votes. Mell is hoping that the mail ballots will help her retain her seat.
The victories for the democratic socialists on Tuesday come after two other candidates aligned with them won alderman seats back in February.
Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa won his reelection bid two months ago and democratic socialist Daniel La Spata upset incumbent Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno to take Chicago’s 1st Ward.
“The oligarchs are shaking in their boots tonight,” Ramirez-Rosa, who defeated challenger Amanda Yu Dieterich in Chicago's 35th, said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “Our continued organizing and movement-building over the last four years is paying dividends. And it appears to be a total transformation of political power at City Hall from the bottom up.”
Despite the gains the democratic socialists hope to make in Chicago, they will be far from the majority on the council. The Chicago City Council has 50 aldermen. Nearly all are Democrats, with only one Republican and one independent currently serving.
Still, the organization’s success in Chicago highlights the gains the DSA has made in the last few years, especially among younger voters. Aside from the impact of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential run in 2016, DSA members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., were elected to the U.S. House last year.