Clem Balanoff

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Clem Balanoff

Clem Balanoff, Jr. (born 1953) is an Illinois activist and politician. He is a nephew of Tom Balanoff.

"Who Asked You" Election Advertisement

In April 1968, Clem Balanoff signed an Advertisement in the Hyde Park-Kenwood Voices as a committee member of an as yet un-named organization led by Ruth Adams, Timuel Black, Rev. E. Spencer Parsons, Al Verri and Rabbi Jacob Weinstein asking the question, "What can you do to get a real choice for president in 1968?"[1]

Supporting communist led steelworkers

The Wisconsin Steel Save Our Jobs Committee was active for 17 years, from 1980 to 1997. How was leader, and Communist Party USA member Frank Lumpkin able to keep SOJ together for so many years?

There were favorable factors that helped. First, Chicago is a union town; the United Steelworkers gave SOJ a home. The Wisconsin Steel workers also had the support of progressive public officials. These included Congressman, and later Mayor, Harold Washington; State Representative, and later U.S. Senator, Carol Moseley Braun; Congressman Gus Savage; State Senator Richard Newhouse; and State Representative Miriam Balanoff, followed by Clem Balanoff Consumer organizations such as Illinois Public Action, and later, Citizen Action of Illinois gave important support. The leftist labor monthly, Labor Today, and its editors Fred Gaboury and Scott Marshall, gave SOJ national coverage.[2]

Progressive Chicago

A Progressive Chicago report to Keith Kelleher, dated October 27, 1993 listed several more contacts and potential members of the organization.

It stated that Alderman Joe Moore had agreed to participate and that State senator Alice Palmer was interested and was awaiting a call from Peter McClennon.

Members had been allocated people to contact;

Others targeted for contact, but not assigned, included Clem Balanoff, Sue Purrington of NOW, Jane Ramsey at JCUA, Erlean Collins, Westside Black elected officials and PUSH, TWO and Joe Gardner's Project Hope.[3]

Friends of Alice Palmer

Mid 1990s Hon. Clem Balanoff was listed as a member of Friends of Alice Palmer (in formation), alongside Danny K Davis, Tony Rezko, Timuel Black and Barack Obama.[4]

DSA support in 1996


In 1996 Democratic Socialists of America sent six staff members into the field for the final weeks of the campaign. These staff and DSA volunteers "contributed to the re-election of Senator Paul Wellstone, Congressperson Maurice Hinchey (D-upstate NY) and aided in the narrow victory of pro-labor John Tierney (D-MA) over "moderate" Republican Pete Torkildsen in Massachusetts. DSA also contributed to the near-upset victories of first-time Democratic challengers Joe Hoeffel in suburban Philadelphia and Clem Balanoff on the Chicago South Side and southwestern suburbs.

According to DSA member Michael Heffron;[5]

Altogether, the district spans a large area of Illinois that ranges from city to suburb to farmland. It was in that six percent that is Chicago-proper where I and a few other DSA volunteers concentrated our work to try to elect Clem Balanoff, a progressive Democrat, to Congress.
As I joined the campaign in late October, Balanoff was down by about 20 points. The gap narrowed as the election approached. Despite being redbaited (partly because of DSA's involvement, but more viciously because Clem's uncle had run for alderman as a Communist back in the 40's), and hippie-baited (due to his spending time in California in the 1980's, ind registering with the Peace and Freedom Party there), Clem slowly began to gain ground, and was only fight points down three days before the election. However, Balanoff was being outspent by two-to-one, so it was the volunteers who played the most crucial role...

In such a race, union support is vital, and Clem received endorsements from every major labor organization in his district. Many of the volunteers 1 worked with were from unions such as the Teamsters for a Democratic Union or SEIU.
Our campaigning continued right up until 7:00 pm election night, when the polls closed and results began to trickle in. What was looking like a shocking upset, with the first 50 percent of precincts reporting Clem ahead by 10 points, slowly slipped away, with Weller catching up and finally surpassing Clem late into the night. Weller, given the run of his life, won by only about 7,000 votes (52 percent to 48 percent).

DSA endorsement

In July 1996, the Democratic Socialists of America Political Action Committee endorsed Clem Balanoff, running in, Illinois 11 in that year's Congressional elections.[6]

DSA forum

About 75 people gathered at the Lodge Hall of Local 1487 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in DesPlaines, on April 5 1997 to listen to speakers and to be entertained by musical groups. The event was sponsored by Democratic Socialists of America, Citizen Action of Illinois, Campaign for Health Care and Nation Associates. DSA's Steve De La Rosa helped organize the event.

Speakers included Clem Balanoff, addressing Campaign Finance Reform and its implications for raising prices of products whose owners contribute to political campaigns. Maureen Kelleher of Dollars & Democracy described an effort of Roman Catholics and Friends (Quakers) to work for one person one vote legislation.[7]


  1. Hyde Park-Kenwood Voices, April 1968
  2. Joy in the Struggle, Bea Lumpkin, page 209]
  3. Progressive chicago report to K Kelleher October 27, 1993
  4. Undated Friends of Alice Palmer membership list. Harold Washington papers
  5. [Dem. Left, Nov./Dec. 1996]
  6. Democratic Left, July/August 1996, page 21