Carlos Ramirez-Rosa is hurriedly scarfing down a bag of mixed nuts and a salad at a Pret A Manger across the street from City Hall on Thursday afternoon—his first meal of the day. It’s been an interesting six days, he tells me.
That’s an understatement. Just a week ago, the 35th Ward alderman was hugging Daniel Biss at a rally in Logan Square, moments after the state senator introduced him as his running mate for the Democratic gubernatorial primary. The announcement raised eyebrows: here was a Hillary Clinton supporter selecting a Bernie Sanders delegate featured on the cover of the Reader last month as the face of the growing Democratic Socialists of America. But it also made some measure of political sense, considering that Sanders earned nearly 1 million votes in Illinois in 2016. Biss told DNAinfo that he “thought hard” about picking Ramirez-Rosa before deciding that “now is not a time to be cautious.”
But that was last week. This week, Biss decided to dump Ramirez-Rosa after Rep. Brad Schneider, one of his key supporters, wrote a post on Facebook on Sunday expressing shock at the selection and withdrawing his endorsement. Schneider cited Ramirez-Rosa’s stance on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which the DSA endorsed at its national conference in August. On Wednesday, in its statement announcing it was dropping Ramirez-Rosa, the Biss campaign accused the alderman of changing his mind about BDS since he interviewed for a spot on the ticket, though the campaign denies that Schneider’s statement prompted Biss’s decision.
“When I asked him in the interview process prior to his selection, Carlos said he too supported a two-state solution and opposed BDS,” the statement read. “Since we’ve announced his selection, we have been asked about his position on BDS. After much discussion, it’s become clear that Carlos’ position has changed. While I respect his right to come to his own conclusions on the issue, it simply wasn’t the understanding we shared when I asked him to join the ticket. In light of this, we have agreed that I will be moving forward with a new running mate. It was not an easy decision, but it was the right decision.”
Ramirez-Rosa denies the claim that he flip-flopped. He told the Reader he has opposed BDS at the state and local level because city and state governments shouldn’t engage in foreign policy—but he supports it at the federal level.
“What I said in June 2016 at the People’s Summit is that we need to have a conversation about the best way that the U.S. federal government exerts pressure on the state of Israel to bring about a two-state solution,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “I recognize Israel’s right to exist. I want to see an end to the occupation of Palestine and we need to have a constructive dialogue about what the U.S. government does in relation to the money it sends Israel to put pressure to create that two-state solution. I have made those positions clear in numerous public forums and it’s unfortunate that Senator Biss did not understand those facts.”
How much did Schneider withdrawing his endorsement play into the understanding of those facts?
“We had many conversations on this matter before and after Congressman Schneider pulled his endorsement, but I want to respect the conversations that I had with Senator Biss and the campaign and keep them private,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “Unfortunately it became clear that after numerous days of conversations, we would not be able to continue together as a ticket. Ultimately, it’s his ticket and I respect his decision.”
— Alex Colston 🌹 (@re_colston) September 6, 2017
Twitter didn’t respect the decision quite so much. Of the more than 900 responses to Biss’s tweet of the announcement, a vast majority were negative. “Wow, you’ve lost my enthusiasm and vote,” one user tweeted at Biss. “Instead of showing a spine you buckled. Throwing my energy behind @Ameya_Pawar_IL now.”
“I had a @danielbiss for IL pin for months but only put it on my backpack 6 days ago. Just removed it,” read another tweet.
When asked for comment, Biss’s campaign directed me to the press release issued Wednesday and added, “We’re in serious conversations with candidates who will help Illinois move in a progressive direction, and we’ll have an announcement in the coming days.”
As far as Ramirez-Rosa’s political future, he said Ameya Pawar has not reached out to him to join his gubernatorial run and that he has no plans to make an independent run for governor or mayor of Chicago—despite numerous calls for him to do so on social media on Wednesday night. “I’m just really honored and humbled to know that so many people have confidence in me to advocate to keep working families before big corporations at different levels of government,” he said. “But I’m running for reelection for alderman of the 35th Ward in 2019.”