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Despite optimism, Sanders fails to overcome Clinton

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Activist Jonathan Jackson speaks at a watch party for Bernie Sanders supporters in Chicago. (Matthew Paras / The DePaulia)

Activist Jonathan Jackson speaks at a watch party for Bernie Sanders supporters in Chicago. (Matthew Paras / The DePaulia)

It couldn’t have been more ironic, really.

Chuy Garcia, last year’s formidable foe to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s re-election bid, stormed in during the late hours of Bernie Sanders’ primary watch party. As Sanders’ appeared to be closing in on Hillary Clinton’s lead, Garcia was there to lift the spirits of the remaining crowd at the Alhambra Palace, a restaurant in the West Loop.

So it was ironic, then, for Clinton to be declared the winner of Tuesday’s primary while he was speaking.

“We’ve been waiting for a long, long time to hear some words about all the fruits of your labors throughout the state of Illinois that have done a fantastic job of advancing the political revolution that Bernie Sanders has brought us together to advance across this country,” Garcia said with the crowd cheering, with few realizing that the race had just been called.

But despite Sanders losing Illinois and three other states, voters remained optimistic throughout the night as the watch party drew more than 200 people.

In some ways, Garcia’s message still had an impact.

“If we listened to the pundits and talking heads, we would have gotten out of this race on day three,” Garcia said. “The truth is we knew the early map favored (Clinton). But make no mistake — this is their high water mark. It only gets closer from here.”

Clinton captured 50 percent of the popular vote in Illinois while Sanders took in 48 percent, but it was a battle that went into the late hours of Tuesday’s primary.  Hillary was officially declared the winner around 11:40 p.m.

The watch party, however, started hours earlier after the polls closed at 7 p.m. Sanders’ volunteers and other supporters trickled in. It was apparent, though, on the diverse amount of supporters that Sanders’ drew.

“We don’t have any corporations raising money. It’s those of us putting in $5, $10,” Barbra O’Connor, 85, said. “He’s very honest.”

Sanders’ perception of being an honest political has been a huge reason for his support, and those in attendance were no different.  Volunteers Ryan McIntyre and Amber Jaraczewski both support Sanders because of his track record.

“I’ve never heard a politician tell the truth, the way Bernie tells the truth,” McIntyre, 29, said. “He just has this air about him that everything he says, you know what he’s saying he means. You know it’s coming from his heart.”

“We saw him two weeks ago at Chicago State,” Jaraczewski, decked out in a “Feel the Bern” hat, said. “Everyone was just so inspired. Everyone came together.  It was a beautiful party. There was nothing negative about it.”

Sanders’ campaign revved up focusing on Illinois two weeks ago when the Vermont senator came to Chicago State to give a speech focused on income inequality and education affordability. Sanders was also in Chicago on Monday, delivering another speech on the city’s violence and political structure. Before leaving for Arizona on Tuesday, Sanders met Garcia for breakfast — a symbolic stand against Mayor Emanuel, who has endorsed Clinton.

The campaigning led to hopes that Sanders could upset Clinton in a similar surprise fashion in the way he was able to secure Michigan. In weeks before Michigan’s primary, public polls showed Clinton way ahead, but Sanders’ scored the upset in a narrow victory.

Activist and Sanders supporter Jonathan Jackson said Sanders made similar in-roads in Illinois.

“He’s brought in more youth, first-time voters to the campaign. He’s independently financed and doesn’t have the party backing,” Jackson said. “He’s also attracted many of the millennials and displaced workers in Illinois. It’s a message that resounds.

“He’s going against the institutions and the insiders. He’s going against the elected officials, which makes it a hurdle. Nothing about this campaign has come easy.”

According to public records, Sanders raised nearly $95 million through the end of January. That number, though, dwarfs Clinton’s $123 million.

With the defeat, Sanders now has 800 delegates compared to Clinton’s 1,561. 2,383 delegates are needed to secure the Democratic nomination. In a victory speech, Clinton even closed with her remarks with a nod towards the general election in November.

Even with the positivity surrounding Sanders’ rhetoric, the result began to hit at the end of the night.

“Disappointed,” McIntyre said. “That’s the word of the night.”

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Despite optimism, Sanders fails to overcome Clinton