Chris Aguayo – Veterans Party US Senate Candidate

Urbana, IL. (ONN) The General Election will be the young Veterans Party’s first organized election ever. The new political party was formed two years ago and has since rocketed to the top of the American opposition and third party politics based on surveys and social media statistics. But will everyday popularity translate into success on Election Day? Chris Aguayo, Veterans Party candidate for US Senate from Illinois, intends to find out.

Taking on the Establishment

32-year-old Chris Aguayo is an Iraq war veteran, a father of two, and the Veterans Party candidate for US Senate from Illinois. He couldn’t have picked a better seat to run for, as Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) is widely considered to be the weakest incumbent Senator up for re-election this year. Their probable Democrat opponent, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), is just as unpopular.

We sat down with Veterans Party candidate Chris Aguayo after seeing him attend one candidates forum after another. Aguayo is taking this election seriously and he’s already campaigning like a seasoned pro. Whether he’s ringing doorbells in his downstate home of Urbana, attending a motorcycle rally on the Iowa border, or meeting with the South Lakeview Neighborhood Association in Chicago, Chris Aguayo is making a name for himself, and the Veterans Party.

Meet Chris Aguayo

Below is a recap of our interview with US Senate candidate Chris Aguayo:

Mark Wachtler: I noticed you were doing a lot of campaign events like candidates forums. How has your candidacy been received by voters?

Chris Aguayo: I believe it’s been received well. I think the people in Illinois are happy to hear from a candidate that isn’t part of the establishment and actually listens to what they have to say instead of just talking to them.

Mark Wachtler: Are you getting any help or support from the national or state Veterans Party or are you basically on your own?

Chris Aguayo: We’re in a rebuilding period for the State Party. I recently stepped down as State Chair in order to give one hundred percent attention to my campaign. Former Democratic Party Secretary John Monaghan was selected to replace me as the State Chair. I’m getting enough support from National, but for the most part I’m doing it on my own with my campaign team.

Mark Wachtler: Why did you choose the Veterans Party over the other parties or running as an independent?

Chris Aguayo: I chose the Veterans Party because it aligns with my overall political views. I’m a centrist and a Constitutionalist. The VPA is a solution-based Constitution party and it’s the fastest growing third party.

Mark Wachtler: How many petition signatures will you need to collect to appear on the ballot in Illinois? How does that compare to the number the Democrat and Republican candidates need to submit?

Chris Aguayo: I need 25,000 signatures in order to appear on the ballot. Realistically, I need 50,000-60,000 signatures to ensure I have enough remaining signatures after the other parties audit my petition. Already established parties like the Democrats and Republicans only need 5,000 signatures to appear on the ballot.

Mark Wachtler: What are your most passionate or important policies or positions?

Chris Aguayo: Defending the people’s Constitutional rights, putting an end to Veteran homelessness and suicide, Veterans Affairs reform, job creation, and campaign finance reform.

Mark Wachtler: How do you intend to break the media black-out of independents and third party candidates?

Chris Aguayo: I’m going to keep up the pressure and become a common household name. I think if I can get on enough radio interviews and get a televised interview the media will have to take me seriously. I will actually be filming a few campaign ads in the next couple weeks.

Mark Wachtler: What do you think of your probable opponents like Mark Kirk, Tammy Duckworth and the Libertarian Chris Michel?

Chris Aguayo: Mark Kirk and Tammy Duckworth work for the same party; the Democrats. Both have claimed they protect the Constitution, but their voting records say otherwise. Both have turned their backs on Veterans and have done nothing to end the growing issues within the VA. I read Chris Michel’s interview. I think he’s a strong candidate, but the people want a true representative of what they believe. They want someone that isn’t tied to the establishment parties. The Libertarian Party is just another branch of the Republican Party much like the Tea Party.

On the issues

On his campaign website, Chris Aguayo sums up his candidacy saying, “It is an honor and truly a humbling experience to be running as a candidate to represent you on Capitol Hill. The time is now to remind both parties that the power of the government belongs back in the hands of you the people of this great state and country.”

Suggesting what Aguayo’s priorities will be if elected, the top two issues listed on the candidate’s platform page are job creation and veteran outreach. He also supports a strong national defense, which he says includes securing our nation’s borders. Those issues are quickly followed by his support of the 2nd Amendment, access to higher education, and fiscal responsibility.

The Veterans Party US Senate candidate also supports term limits, campaign finance reform, welfare reform and immigration reform. To be fair, Chris Aguayo doesn’t oppose legal immigration or social services for the poor. Instead, he says they both need to be overhauled and fixed so that the scarce resources available go to those truly in need rather than individuals who are scamming the system.

Green Party scrambles to get on Nov Ballot in IL

The Green Party of Illinois has just two weeks left to collect and submit enough petition signatures to have their candidates appear on the November General Election ballot in Illinois. In 2012, Illinois Greens collected enough signatures. But they didn’t have the money or resources to fight off a strategic challenge to those petitions by Illinois Democrats and were left off. They hope this year will be different.

Illinois Greens, along with the state’s Libertarians, Veterans, and Constitution Party, must each collect 45,000 valid petition signatures by June 27th to have their candidate slate printed on the November ballot. That’s double the number of signatures the Democrats and Republicans must submit for their candidates. Some consider that ‘Exhibit A’ in what they call the rigged election system.

“Do you believe voters in Illinois should be able to vote for Jill Stein, the only presidential candidate who is talking about global warming?” Illinois Green Party petition coordinator Nancy Wade urgently asked two weeks ago in an email to supporters, “If you think Illinois voters should have a real choice for real change we need your help now! We have only four weeks left to collect the rest of the 45,000 signatures of registered voters needed to get Jill Stein on the ballot in Illinois. They must be delivered to the Board of Elections on June 27.”

A separate appeal from the Illinois Green Party announced, “If you want to see real candidates for peace, progress, prosperity and the PEOPLE on the ballot this November, we need YOU to help make it happen.”

The announcement went on to say, “The Bernie Sanders campaign has shown that there are a LOT of disenchanted voters out there who are pining for a real progressive option on the ballot. But they won’t get one from the Democratic Party! Only the Green Party is putting up real candidates for positive social change – against global warming and for renewable energy, against student debt and for tuition-free higher education, against constant war and for genuine peace, against all forms of oppression and for economic and social justice, including a $15 per hour minimum wage nationally!”

Some of the 2016 Green Party candidates referenced above include; Jill Stein for President, Bill Kreml for Vice President, Scott Summers for US Senate, Tim Curtin for Comptroller, Christopher Anthony for Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, David Green for State Senate in the Champaign-Urbana area, and Dan Silver for State Representative in Southern Illinois.

And speaking of Bernie Sanders, the Greens presumptive Presidential nominee Jill Stein shocked political pundits from all parties this week when she invited Sanders to take her place as the Green Party candidate for President now that Hillary Clinton has locked up the Democratic Party nomination. Sanders has yet to react to the invitation.

Chicago Rib Fest June 10-12

What combines 60,000 people and 50,000 pounds of pork? The appetizing answer is Chicago’s own Rib Fest. Now in its 18th year, RibFest Chicago has been dubbed Chicago’s ‘Best Food Fest’ and one of the most popular summer festivals the city has to offer. From its humble beginnings in a north side parking lot, RibFest Chicago has become a favorite of foodies, local residents, and even the nationally televised Food Network.

RibFest Chicago promises a memorable weekend of lively music, family fun, satisfied appetites and unforgettable barbecue. What began with 5 Chicagoland restaurants now includes 30 rib and non-rib eateries participating in the popular street fest. And rivaling the nationally touted food experience is the festival’s premier music attractions. Two stages will include 19 top bands and performers featuring some of Chicago and America’s favorite music acts.

Be sure to bring the kids too. RibFest Chicago offers fun activities for children of all ages including its very own ‘Kids Square’ where kids can slide, climb, jump, ride, dance and enjoy live entertainment all weekend long. This is one family-friendly event where every member of the family will surely have a wonderful and memorable time.

If you like some healthy competition with your ribs, you’ve come to the right place. RibFest Chicago 2016 will include ‘Rib Mania’ – the only sanctioned rib-eating contest in the Midwest. And that’s not the only contest. BBQ pit masters will also be competing for the coveted title of ‘best ribs’.

RibFest Chicago, while a national treasure, hasn’t outgrown its local roots. That’s evident in the fact that proceeds from the event will go toward a host of local charities and community programs. Last year’s fest benefited worthy Chicago organizations like the Lakeview Pantry, Lane Tech High School’s girls soccer and Lacrosse teams, Chicago Boys Club and Girls Club, and 15 local schools and non-profits.

Feds expand Investigation of Chicago Police Dept

The string of questionable shooting deaths of teens, mentally ill and innocent bystanders by Chicago Police officers has led to a criminal investigation by the US Justice Department. And for a change, the feds aren’t investigating individual incidents. Instead, they are investigating the entire Chicago Police Department including City Hall itself. Is there a criminal ‘code of silence’ protecting police officers from criminal prosecution?

That’s the question the Justice Dept is attempting to answer according to documents obtained by two local Chicago news outlets via a FOIA request. Those documents, acquired by NBC 5 Chicago and detailed by the Chicago Sun Times yesterday, show federal authorities have made 86 separate demands for information from the Chicago Police Dept and City Hall. The documents show the DoJ requests began in December 2015 and have continued as recently as last month.

The federal investigation appears to have begun after the fatal shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald who was shot 16 times by Chicago police. One officer involved in that incident is now facing murder charges. But the records requested by federal agents date as far back as 2011. They also include demands for information from the double-homicide by a Chicago Police officer in which Quintonio LeGrier and an innocent bystander were shot and killed. LeGrier was the mentally ill teen who called 911 for help.

The federal investigation of the Chicago Police appears to have been spurred by the fatal shooting of McDonald and the subsequent falsification of police reports and perjured testimony of numerous officers involved in the incident. Like nearly all other police killings over the past three decades, the shooting was deemed ‘justified’ by the CPD and the Independent Police Review Authority. That is, until the police’s own video footage was released showing the teen was shot in the back and as he lay motionless on the ground. The video also showed that multiple police officers lied on their official reports of the incident.

According to the DoJ documents obtained by the two local news outlets, the Justice Department has made 86 separate requests for records from the Chicago Police Department since the Laquan McDonald shooting. The additional requests expand the federal investigation to cover not just individual shooting deaths, but the cover-ups allegedly perpetrated by Chicago City Hall and the police department itself.

The most controversial portion of the federal investigation involves the well known ‘code of silence’ inside the Chicago Police Department in which supposedly ‘good cops’ look the other way and falsify police reports to protect the criminal activity of fellow officers. The federal investigation reportedly extends all the way to Chicago City Hall.
Other issues and accusations the Justice Department has demanded information from the CPD include:

The lack of disciplinary action taken against police officers accused of criminal activity.

The oversight by the Independent Police Review Authority charged with investigating crimes committed by police officers.

SWAT team and Canine unit deployments.

City Hall and CPD retaliation against two CPD officers who testified for the FBI against fellow officers who were eventually convicted of robbery.

CPD procedures for investigating whistleblower tips of criminal activity being waged by Chicago Police officers.

Targeted retribution by authorities against whistleblowers inside the Chicago Police Dept.

Numerous incidents in which innocent bystanders were hurt or killed when CPD officers were deemed justified in using force.

The identities of individuals hired to instruct police officers, including outside contractors.

The identities of all Chicago Police officers who are suspiciously being paid while on extended sick leave, disability, and ‘light duty’.

CPD resistance to the use of body cameras on all police officers.

An assortment of other issues and questions were also included in the DoJ’s ongoing request for information from the CPD and Chicago City Hall including training programs, officer wellness programs, procedures for handling dash-cam videos, and the overlap of personal activities of police officers while on the job.

Responding to the news reports of the growing federal investigation of the CPD and City Hall, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement saying, “As we have said for months, we will continue to cooperate fully and work closely with the Department of Justice in their review and we believe their work will be an important part of rebuilding trust in our police department.”

Veterans Flower Planting at Shedd Aquarium Thursday

The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago has donated a section of its lakefront property to create a flower garden in honor of America’s veterans, active duty soldiers, their spouses and most especially Gold Star parents who have lost a child while serving in the military. On Thursday, May 19, soldiers, vets and their families are invited to spend the entire day at the Aquarium to help plant flowers outside and then enjoy the Shedd’s aquatic life inside.

‘The Shedd Aquarium is looking for a few good men and women to volunteer half a day to help create a new garden at the aquarium honoring fellow veterans and Gold Star mothers,’ the Shedd’s spokespeople announced, ‘Shedd values the service veterans have given our country and proudly supports the hiring of returning service members and military spouses. Now we’d like to expand our reach.’

All Chicago-area veterans and active duty soldiers are invited to spend the day as part of the Shedd’s ‘Gardener Brigades’.

They are teams of volunteers enlisted to dig and plant a garden on the Aquarium’s north lawn facing Lake Michigan. In October, vets planted 30,000 Spring-blooming flowers colored yellow, gold and white to honor Gold Star mothers.

This week, volunteers will plant flowers colored red, white, blue and gold to honor all of America’s military veterans. Organizers provide all the tools necessary to participate including lunch and admission to the Shedd Aquarium. The day will be broken up into two shifts. The first will work from 8-11am with volunteers admitted into the Aquarium in the afternoon. The second shift is from 1-4pm with participants eligible to enjoy the Shedd’s aquatic life in the morning. Lunch will be provided from 11-1 so that both shifts can mingle and meet each other in between.

IAVA Vet Together
One participating veterans organization in Thursday’s flower planting event is the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). The group regularly holds or sponsors local programs like the Shedd’s flower planting in towns and cities all across America. They call them ‘Vet Togethers’.

A recent announcement from IAVA invites veterans to participate saying, “There’s a cool event near you coming up soon. Come on out to Shedd Aquarium on Thursday, May 19, to spend the day planting Spring-blooming bulbs all to help create a special garden honoring veterans and Gold Star mothers.”

According to the IAVA website, ‘Vet Togethers are community. Veterans and supporters share in a common goal: to (re)build camaraderie. Driven by our growing member base, Vet Togethers boost local leaders who foster a strong peer network and keep conversations going with every monthly event. Vet Togethers ensure that connections are forged whether you’re a veteran transitioning home, a retiree looking for a way to give back or a student hoping to engage with your peers.’

The Shedd Aquarium flower planting will take place Thursday, May 19 from 8am to 4pm. If the outdoor event is rained out, the following day (Friday, May 20) has been set aside as a make-up day. The Shedd Aquarium is located at 1200 S. Lakeshore Drive in Chicago. For more information, visit SheddAquarium.org.

Mary Poppins now playing at Stage 773

Chicago (ONN) The legendary musical Mary Poppins is currently running at Chicago’s north side theater Stage 773. Who could forget Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in their starring roles in the famed Disney movie that made Mary Poppins so unforgettable. Now, and playing through March 27th, Stage 773 and the NightBlue Performing Arts Company have brought the musical to Chicago. On Broadway, the show earned seven TONY nominations including Best Musical.

As detailed on the Stage 773 show announcement, ‘Mary Poppins is the story of the Banks family who live in a big house in London on Cherry Lane. Things are not going well for the family, the children, Jane and Michael, are out of control and are in need of a new nanny. Jane and Michael have their own ideas about what sort of caretaker they should have, while their parents – and in particular Mr. Banks – are insistent on someone strict for the job. When a mysterious young woman named Mary Poppins appears at their doorstep, the family finds that she’s the answer to their prayers, but in the most peculiar way.’

Director David E. Walters says, “Many folks think of the magic and magnificence of Mary Poppins on the big stage. At NightBlue, we are excited to tell you an intimate story of a family that discovers what is most important in life with the aid of a determined nanny. Oh, and don’t worry, we’ll sprinkle plenty of fairy dust over this tale. Appropriate for any age, our Mary Poppins will help families want to make time for dinner together.”

Joining director David E. Walters is critically acclaimed music director Austin Cook and five-time Jeff Award-winning choreographer Kevin Bellie. The title role of Mary Poppins is played by Kyrie Anderson and the lovable chimney sweep Bert is played by Ryan Dooley.

Chicago Greens have contested Primary, sort of

Chicago. (ONN) North side Chicago residents, as well as many of the surrounding suburbs, will be offered a rare choice for the March 15 Primary Election. Voters will have three political party ballots to choose from instead of the typical two. That’s because the Green Party of Chicago has not only achieved major party status in the 5th Congressional District, but it has a contested Primary for its seat in Congress.

Major Party Status in CD-5

Two years ago, Green Party candidate Nancy Wade – who we endorsed at the Illinois Herald – garnered enough votes in her bid for Congress to qualify the Illinois Greens as a major party in her 5th US Congressional District. CD-5 covers much of the far north and northwest sides of Chicago, as well as many of the surrounding north, northwest, and western suburbs. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) currently represents the District in the US House.

Thanks to Wade’s success, and the accompanying major party status, Green Party candidates need only collect a few dozen petition signatures to place a candidate on the ballot. Other independents and third party candidates must still collect roughly 15,000. The best part, at least for the Greens, is that every Primary voter in the 5th Congressional District will be offered three ballots when they enter their polling place – Democrat, Republican, and Green. That kind of official recognition and state-funded promotion is worth its weight in gold.

2016 Contested Green Primary

At the beginning of the 2016 Primary season, it appeared there may be four candidates vying for the Green Party nomination for Congress in IL CD-5. But 2012 and 2014 nominee Nancy Wade declined to run again. Candidate Richard Mayers was challenged and had his name removed from the March 15 ballot. That leaves two candidates, and one of those doesn’t even live in the District and isn’t eligible to hold the office.

The last man standing, literally, is Warren Grimsley of Chicago. Rob Sherman, a local Green Party leader and the man infamously credited with kicking a host of third party Presidential candidates off the 2012 Illinois Ballot, is also still listed. But as the Chicago Sun Times pointed out in its own endorsement of Grimsley this week, Rob Sherman doesn’t live in the District.

Warren Grimsley for Congress

If Warren Grimsley’s Primary campaign is any indication, he is going to be a formidable opponent against incumbent Congressman Mike Quigley. There are currently no Republicans listed on the ballot for the office. But the Illinois GOP may insert a new candidate in time for the November General Election just as it did two years ago. Otherwise, the Green’s Grimsley may find himself in the enviable position of a one-on-one race with a fairly unpopular US Representative.

“Citizens, the time has come for an insurgency against the status quo in Washington,” Warren Grimsley says on his campaign website, “Our system is failing. Politicians today answer not to the people that elected them, but to corporations or other big money players. We must demand that our voices be heard, our protests seen and our sacred votes honored. We must rally to show solidarity. To support progress, vote Green.”

Possibly the most contemptuous issue in the campaign will be Rep. Quigley’s support for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP trade deal, according to its opponents, will continue transferring American jobs to third world countries for cheaper labor, sometimes even slave labor. It will also transfer some of America’s sovereignty to a world body made up of corporations overseeing the rules of the TPP agreement.

Without mentioning his opponent by name, Warren Grimsley says, “As you know, fast-track authority for the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) has passed the Congress, giving President Obama authority to present a complicated, previously secret agreement to Congress for its up or down vote. No amendments to the agreement will be allowed. The current puppet for the one percent who is in office in the 5th District is in favor of the poisonous TPP.”