Bernie Sanders to hold pre-election rally for Brandon Johnson

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will headline a preelection rally at the UIC Forum on Thursday to help Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson energize his base and boost turnout among young people.

The 7 p.m. rally will also feature rapper Vic Mensa and "multiple congressional endorsers."

Johnson adviser Bill Neidhardt refused to say whether progressive political icon Elizabeth Warren would be among those in attendance. He would only way that "more speakers" would be announced over the next week.

Posters promoting the rally — one using the blue-and-red color scheme of the Chicago Cubs, the other the black-and-gray used by the White Sox — will be going up across the city.


The UIC Forum has six meeting rooms and three halls with a total space of 30,200 square feet. The facility can "be enlarged to accommodate" a crowd of up to 1,500 or modified to fit "whatever sized crowd we get," Neidhardt said.

When Sanders endorsed Johnson last week, he tweeted the news to his 15.5 million Twitter followers.

But his greatest value to Johnson has always been his potential to join Johnson at a preelection rally in Chicago to energize Johnson’s progressive base and boost turnout that was just over 35% on Feb. 28.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will headline a preelection rally at the UIC Forum on Thursday to help mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson energize his base and boost turnout among young people. ((Scott Olson/Drew Angerer/Getty Images) / Getty Images)

Now that will happen for Johnson five days before what could be a nail-biter of an election.

Neidhardt argued that Sanders’ potential to help "energize the base" Johnson is attempting to build among Black, progressive white and young Latino voters cannot be overstated. The independent Vermont senator and two-time presidential candidate "has a higher favorability rating than virtually any other Democrat," he said.

"Young voters will hear the big musical name. They’ll hear a politician who is very popular with them" and they’ll come to the UIC Forum, said Neidhart, who served as deputy state director for Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign in Iowa.

"This is not progressive versus moderate. This is Democrat versus Republican. This will help show that. … This is a city that votes for Democrats 85% and up. What we want to do is tell every Democrat, `We’re the Democrat in the race. Vote for the real Democrat.’ This will help do that. Paul Vallas can’t touch that."

If history is any indication, the UIC Forum could be bursting at the seams.

In the run-up to last year’s mid-term elections, Sanders headlined two Chicago rallies. One at Teamsters City drew more than 1,200 people. Another at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare included a crowd of roughly 2,000, Neidhardt said.

"Having worked for Bernie’s campaign in Iowa where our main voters were actually older union members, this isn’t just for young kids. Bernie Sanders has also shown in his presidential primaries that he is very popular with Latino voters, very popular across the board. Democrats love him. This is definitely something where we are playing to the broad base we have," Neidhardt said.

"This is a big rally — something that [Paul] Vallas can’t do. Vallas can’t hold a rally with more than 300 people."

Throughout the campaign, Vallas has been fending off charges that he is an anti-choice, anti-union, pro-voucher "Republican" masquerading as a Democrat.

The Vallas campaign was bracing for the possibility of a Sanders rally — and playing down the potential impact.

"If Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders come here, it probably helps the Vallas turnout more," former Chicago Board of Education President Gery Chico, one of Vallas’ staunchest supporters, told the Sun-Times earlier this week. "People will wonder why two of the progressive national leaders are coming here to Chicago. We don’t need them to come here. We’ve already heard it in Brandon Johnson’s program."

"Chicago has had a pretty good history of handling its own issues. We don’t need people from the outside coming in and telling us how to live and how to vote."