Evanston Democrats honor politicians, activists ahead of upcoming election

Ben Schaefer, Reporter

David Axelrod, former political adviser to President Barack Obama, traveled to Evanston to accept an award Sunday evening from the Democratic Party of Evanston for his political achievements.

At the DPOE’s annual dinner, dozens gathered to honor volunteers for years of political activism and to ramp up support for the upcoming election. Axelrod was given the Yellow Dog Award, one of many honors given out at the event.

Now the director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, Axelrod spoke to the DPOE about his contributions in the government and about what Illinois needs.

Axelrod’s former boss, Obama, also spent time in the area Sunday, visiting Chicago’s South Side to rally for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.

“I know Pat Quinn well,” Axelrod told The Daily. “He has a big heart and he governs with a big heart. I don’t know a lot about Bruce Rauner but I do know this: Cutting the state budget by $8 billion, freezing property taxes is not the way to improve our schools, it’s not the way to shore up our human services.”

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) presented the award and spoke to the incumbent governor’s record on reproductive rights legislation.

“(Quinn) is the most pro-woman governor in this country,” she said.

Paul Vallas, Quinn’s running mate for lieutenant governor, spoke on the governor’s campaign. He defended Quinn’s poise in the face of critics and attacked Republican challenger Bruce Rauner’s record as a businessman.

“He’s not the kind of businessman that creates jobs,” Vallas said. “For him it’s all about taking profit and avoiding taxes on that profit. He’s a profit taker, not a job creator.”

With early voting in Illinois opening Monday, DPOE organizers focused heavily on galvanizing volunteers to commit time to organizing phone banks and getting out the message to vote.

“If we get our people out to vote, we will win,” Schakowsky said.

Leaders also took time to recognize longtime Democratic Party volunteers in Evanston.

Political strategist Robert Creamer won the Abner Mikva Award for his contribution to the party and the community. Cook County commissioner Larry Suffredin called Creamer the “compass” of the DPOE.

Creamer focused his speech on “the fierce urgency of now” that the current election demands.

Jane Neumann and Joanne Zolomij received Ted L. Loda Volunteer Awards for years of active dedication and involvement in the DPOE, as well as the work they contributed to various campaigns.

The DPOE honored Bernice Weissbourd for her decades of work in Chicago. In 1976, Weissbourd founded Family Focus, a Chicago-area organization that works with low-income communities to help build healthy families by concentrating on the needs of young children.

During her acceptance speech, Weissbourd gave what she called her “declaration of interdependence.”

“The concept of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps has gone the way of Prohibition,” she said. “That’s what this award means to me, it’s proudly acknowledging that we need each other.”

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