For years, Joanna Klonsky staffed long-shot campaigns and causes, because she believed in them, knowing full well they had a slim chance of succeeding. She worked for them because she thought it was the right thing to do. But then some of them started to win. And then, she joined the Lightfoot for Mayor campaign, which at the beginning looked a lot like other slim-to-none campaigns. And then…incomprehensively, Lightfoot started to look like a winner. And then she won. And now, as a result of that all or nothing bet, Joanna Klonsky has become one of the most influential people in Chicago politics.
Some people, like Kim Walz, found their love of politics in a small town. Kim’s story reminds us that few of us have a direct path in life, and that most of us weave back and forth with lots of detours along the way. What makes Kim more interesting than most people in politics is that her detours from politics are so unusual. Stints in low budget filmmaking, Japanese television, health insurance. It’s almost as if there’s nothing she won’t try.
Mike Kreloff’s career has been remarkable. He was the prototype “Lakefront Liberal” on the North Side’s Rogers Park back in the 1960’s and 70’s. Then, after helping to create a real liberal movement in Chicago – working to elect David Orr for Alderman and then Cook County Clerk along the way – he moved to suburban Northfield Township, where he became Democratic Committeeman. And then again, he started a liberal movement – except it was called “progressive” this time. Helping to turn Chicago’s north suburbs from red to blue.
Elaine Nekritz is one of the most sincere people you’ll ever meet. That might have made it hard for her to be successful in politics, but during her 14-year career in the Illinois House – she retired in 2017 – Elaine earned a reputation as a straight-shooting progressive force. She says that while in office she nursed an introvert personality, sometimes dreading the need to glad hand scores of strangers. It was competitiveness, she says, that kept her going.
Anton Seals, a South Side community organizer, has a lot of balls in the air. He’s working for for a community benefits agreement with the Obama Library, he just finished working on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s transition committee, he’s been advocating for minorities in the new Illinois cannabis legalization law, and he heads up an urban agriculture group called Grow Englewood. He’s a man totally dedicated to organizing, always “keeping it 1000”, as he tells me.