December 29, 2010


A debilitating political malaise, known by the acronym NHDOD, is the scourge of Chicago ’s Hispanic-majority wards. It variously afflicts officeholders, rendering them either politically impotent or omnipotent.

It’s the “No-HDO Disorder,” which causes an evaporation of money and manpower.

What the erstwhile Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO) giveth in the 2003 and 2007 aldermanic elections, the voters may taketh away in 2011. “It’s disgraced, dispirited and destitute,” said longtime anti-HDO activist and lawyer Frank Avila. “It’s now inconsequential.”

The brainchild of Victor Reyes, the former city director of intergovernmental affairs, and Al Sanchez, the Streets and Sanitation commissioner, the HDO’s goal was to propagate the reign of Mayor Rich Daley. They promised city jobs to political workers, bastardized hiring procedures to get them on the payroll, extorted campaign donations from those hired, and promoted those who continued to produce in the precincts. In 1999, 2003 and 2007, the HDO produced huge Daley margins in the Hispanic wards, and elected pro-Daley aldermen.

            In 2007, the HDO dispatched an army of over 1,500 workers into Hispanic wards. Daley got 49,513 votes (82.9 percent) in the 11 Hispanic-majority wards, and pro-HDO aldermen won 4 of 7 contests.

            Sanchez, indicted in 2009, and convicted of job rigging, fraud and perjury, is now in prison. Reyes skated, as the statute of limitations lapsed. Daley is now fading into retirement. Past HDO workers and donors have gone to ground. The NHDOD plague is everywhere apparent.

There is major ethnic and geographic rivalry among Hispanic politicians, with Southwest Side Mexican-Americans battling North Side Puerto Ricans. Each wants to be Chicago ’s first Hispanic mayor. The election of Joe Berrios, the county Democratic chairman, as assessor in 2010 gives the Puerto Ricans an advantage. But there is also ideological rivalry among Puerto Ricans, with liberal “reformers” battling the “insiders.” Berrios is not about to let a “reformer” prevail.

Mayor: In 2011, city clerk Miguel del Valle, a North Side Puerto Rican and anti-HDO liberal, is competing with Gery Chico, a wealthy lawyer and former Daley chief-of-staff and school board president, who is part Mexican and part Greek. Chico lives on the Gold Coast, but most of his support is from the South Side. Also running is Wilfredo DeJesus, a Puerto Rican minister from the 26th Ward.

In the 2007 election, a meager 59,716 votes were cast in the Hispanic wards for mayor, constituting 14 percent of the total citywide vote. Of Daley’s 318,578 votes, 15.5 percent came from Hispanic wards. In the clerk’s race, in which del Valle faced a black and a Mexican-American, he won with 249,962 votes (58 percent), with 65 percent of his vote in the white wards.

            Del Valle is contesting Rahm Emanuel and Chico for the white vote, splitting the Hispanic vote with Chico , and possibly getting 5-8 percent of the black vote. Emanuel, if he stays on the ballot, will run first on Feb. 22. If Emanuel faces a black – Danny Davis or Carol Moseley Braun – in the April 5 runoff, he wins. If he faces del Valle or Chico , and they gain the black vote, it could be close.

            City Clerk: It’s a Hispanic-versus-black race, with Susana Mendoza, a South Side Mexican-American state representative facing Patricia Horton, a black from State Senator Rickey Hendon’s West Side organization. Mendoza ’s key supporters are powerhouse white committeemen Ed Burke, Bill Lipinski and Mike Madigan. Expect Mendoza ’s white and Hispanic vote to eclipse Horton’s black base.

            Eight of the 11 Hispanic wards have white aldermen -- Burke (14th), Dick Mell (33rd) and John Pope (10th). Mexican-Americans occupy the 3 South Side wards, and Puerto Ricans hold the 4 North Side wards, despite continuing Mexican population gains. Here’s an analysis:

            1st Ward ( West Town , part of Ukrainian Village , part of Bucktown): The ward is half Hispanic, mostly Mexican-American, with a sizeable white population east of Damen.  Procho “Joe” Moreno, an area businessman and Mexican-American, was appointed by Daley as alderman in 2009. He will win easily.

            10th Ward (South Chicago: Calumet Park , Pill Hill, Slag Valley , Hegewisch): Once a bastion of Serbs, Croatians, Poles and Italians, the ward is over 60 percent Mexican-American. Onetime ward boss Ed Vrdolyak, alderman from 1971-87, is in jail. The Vrdolyak family has fled to the suburbs. But Pope, a white Vrdolyak and HDO ally elected in 1999, is safe as long as “Tio Tacos” – Hispanic “Uncle Toms” – support him.

            In 2007, Pope was re-elected with 70 percent, garnering two-thirds of the Hispanic vote. This year, Pope faces Rich Martinez, a Hispanic Evangelical Christian youth pastor, and three whites. Pope spent $181,552 in 2007, and has $50,620 on-hand. Without the HDO, Pope is in jeopardy. If there’s no tio tacos, and a Pope-Martinez runoff, Pope will lose.

            12th Ward (East Little Village, Brighton Park on the South Side): It’s a perpetual game of musical chairs, with every alderman a piñata. In 2011, there’s no music and no HDO. The Mexican-American ward has had 3 alderman since 1986: Jesus Garcia, a Harold Washington liberal, elected state senator in 1992; city cop Ray Frias, appointed by Daley in 1993, who had HDO backing in 1999; and George Cardenas, who won in 2003 when HDO local kingpin Joseph Mario Moreno, a county commissioner and Frias ally, dumped Frias for Cardenas. In 2007, against 5 opponents, Cardenas raised $388,937 and the HDO flooded the ward, enabling Cardenas to win with 59 percent. In 1998, another HDO acolyte, Tony Munoz, ousted Garcia as senator.

            It’s now back to the past.  Garcia ousted Moreno in the 2010 primary for commissioner. Cardenas will likely be removed from the ballot for unpaid city indebtedness. HDO is gone. An uninspiring field – Al Mercado, Jesse Iniguez, Jose Guereca, Al Bocanegra, Chavelo Rodriguez, and Chula Ortiz – fights for the succession. An edge to Bocanegra and Iniguez.

22nd Ward (West Little Village, South Lawndale , near South Side): 15-year Mexican-American incumbent Ricardo Munoz, an implacable HDO foe, was re-elected in 2007 with 57 percent. The HDO backed Joaquin Salamanca, who got 10 percent. In February, Munoz supported Rudy Lozano Jr. in a losing primary against State Representative Dan Burke, Ed’s brother. Munoz faces four foes in 2011. If they amass more than a majority, forcing a runoff, expect the Burke Boys to intervene. Munoz’ past salvation has been the ward’s north end black precincts. Munoz is favored.

            25th Ward (Near West Side: Pilsen, medical center complex): In this Mexican-American ward, Danny Solis’ grip is unraveling. He got 81 percent in 1999, 54 percent in 2003, and just 51.4 percent in 2007. Solis IS known as Daley’s “favorite” Hispanic alderman, and is a HDO champion. In 2011, he faces Cuahutemoc Morfin, who got 22 percent in 2007, and Ambi Medrano Jr., son of the convicted former alderman. Expect a runoff, and Solis’ defeat.

            26th Ward ( West Town ): In this Puerto Rican ward, 17-year incumbent Billy Ocasio resigned in 2010 for a state job, and sought his wife’s appointment as successor. Daley picked Roberto Maldonado, a county commissioner and the ward’s Democratic committeeman. In the 2010 primary for Maldonado’s county job, Mell’s candidate, Edwin Reyes, beat Maldonado’s pick. For 2011, Maldonado is safe, as Marisol Morales, supposedly backed by U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-4), is off the ballot. Maldonado faces Devon Reid, and will win.

            30th Ward (Near Northwest Side: Cragin, Avondale): In this Puerto Rican ward, incumbent Ariel Reboyras, a HDO insider of Central American ancestry, won with 77 percent in 2003 and 70 percent in 2007. But it’s a whole new non-HDO world. State Senator Willie Delgado, an outspoken liberal and longtime ally of del Valle, is challenging Reboyras. In the 2008 20th District state senate primary, Reboyras and the HDO backed Rich Bradley against incumbent Iris Martinez, who won by 2,521 votes. There are 3 other candidates. Expect Reboyras to lose the runoff.

            31st Ward ( West Logan Square ): 20-year Puerto Rican incumbent Ray Suarez, an ally Berrios, was expected to run for city clerk, but deferred to Mendoza . Suarez was unopposed in 2003, and got 86 percent in 2007. He has $1,048,451 in his campaign account. He faces four foes in 2011. No contest.

            35th Ward ( Logan Square ): Created in 1995, this Puerto Rican ward has played ping pong, with Mell and the HDO electing Vilma Colom twice, and anti-HDO Rey Colon winning in 2003 and 2007. Colon is an ally of Martinez and enemy of Mell.  Colon opposed the parking meter lease, but has been a pro-Daley vote.   The ward has a sizeable (25 percent) “Bohemian” white vote (meaning counter-culture liberals), and plenty of Hispanic liberals. Miguel Sotomayor, who got 20 percent in 2007, is running again, with 3 others. Colon beat Colom with 62 percent in the 2007 runoff. If Sotomayor forces a runoff, and Mell sends in workers (as he did for Colom), Colon will lose.