August 8, 2018


It is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the glaring absence of a 2019 Hispanic Chicago mayoral contender is making Rahm Emanuel's heart go pittter-patter.

Emanuel won the 2015 runoff against Chuy Garcia because he put together a black/white coalition that outvoted Garcia's Hispanic/ white liberal coalition. Emanuel can win in 2019 only if he puts together a white/Hispanic coalition, which is now doable.

With Garcia, who is currently a county commissioner going off to Washington as the next 4th District congressman, and with retiring U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-4) going off to Puerto Rico, the city's Hispanic demographic is in play.

If Emanuel gets the bulk of that vote, which is estimated to be around 15 percent, he will win a third term...especially if he gets into a runoff against an African American candidate like Lori Lightfoot or a white law-and-order type like Garry McCarthy. In that case, Emanuel would be the least objectionable candidate for Hispanic voters.

Currently there is no Hispanic "bench," explained Alderman Gilbert Villegas (36th), meaning elected Hispanic officeholders who have the stature and the money to run citywide. That includes state comptroller Susana Mendoza and her replacement as Chicago city clerk, Anna Valencia. "Wait until 2023," said Villegas, who was elected in 2015 in the newly-created Hispanic-majority 36th Ward, and is closely allied with state Representative Luis Arroyo (D-3), where he is 36th Ward Democratic committeeman.

"There will definitely be a Hispanic candidate" in 2023, said Villegas, age 47, and it could possibly be him. Villegas was recently named vice-chair of the aviation committee, which will oversee $8.3 billion in O'Hare Airport renovations over the next decade, giving him a future fund-raising base.

(In a related development, 38th Ward Alderman Nick Sposato, who had been the aviation committee vice-chairman and aspired to the chairmanship vacated by Mike Zalewski, resigned that post in June after Emanuel appointed 19th Ward Alderman Matt O'Shea as chairman.

"I am a conservative," said Sposato. "I do not always support the mayor. He did not want me to be part of his leadership team." After he resigned, he encouraged the mayor to appoint Villegas as vice-chairman. There are 16 council committees, with each chairman appointed by the mayor.

According to statistics provided by Sposato, 44 percent of the aldermen are white, but hold 31 percent of the chairmanships; 36 percent are black, but hold 44 percent of the chairmanships; and 20 percent are Hispanic, but hold 25 percent of the chairmanships. It's all about politics.
Anyway, there are presently 10 Hispanic Chicago aldermen (out of 50) and two Hispanic county commissioners (out of 17). "Half the (Hispanic) alderman are getting ready to retire, and half are too new to run" for mayor in 2019, said Villegas. The 2015 class of Hispanic aldermen, along with Villegas, included Millie Santiago (31st), age 64, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), age 29, and Raymond Lopez (15th), age 40; Silvana Tabares, a state representative, who was recently appointed to replace Zalewski in the 23rd Ward.

Ramirez-Rosa and Lopez are two of the council's five openly gay aldermen, which could be a political advantage if they ran for mayor, broadening their base. Ramirez-Rosa's career seemed ascendant after he was chosen as Dan Biss's 2018 running mate for lieutenant governor, but it was revealed that he made remarks critical of Israel and supportive of a Palestinian nation, and Biss quickly dumped him. Given the clout of Jewish voters and Jewish money in Chicago, Ramirez-Rosa may have made himself a pariah.

The council's "over-the-hill-gang" Hispanics include (1) Ariel Reboyras (30th), age 65, of Central-American heritage and chairman of the Public Safety committee, where he is under a lot of pressure to resolve the "police reform" or, as some call it, the "police oversight" issue so as to not to damage his ally, Emanuel. Rumors abound that a "golden parachute" awaits Reboyras, and that he will get a comfy state job if J.B. Pritzker wins the governorship in November.

(2) George Cardenas (12th), age 53, a Mexican-American from the Southwest Side, who has served since 2003. (3) Ric Munoz, age 53, elected in 1993 and a longstanding Emanuel critic, who is retiring in 2019. His Southwest Side Mexican-American ward will certainly elect another "independent progressive," as Munoz calls himself. (4) Danny Solis (25th), age 68, chairman of the Hispanic Caucus, the zoning committee, and a staunch Emanuel supporter. He is from the near Southwest Side 25th Ward, just west of Bridgeport, with a Mexican-American majority, and has served since 1996. (5) Roberto Maldonado (26th), age 66, a former county commissioner, from the Puerto Rican precincts around Humboldt Park, who has served since 2009. And (6) Proco Joe Moreno (1st), age 46, from the eclectic 1st Ward, which meanders from Ashland-Division-Milwaukee, the old Polish neighborhood, to points west and north, coming close to Logan Square, with a large gentrifying white population.

The demise of Berrios, assessor since 2010, Democratic county chairman and undisputed boss of city Hispanic politics, is entirely attributable to his bad judgment and anemic Hispanic voter turnout. Berrios had the money, but he didn't back Garcia in 2015 - making him appear to be Emanuel's flunky - and a persistent stream of scandals could not be overcome. Berrios lost to Fritz Kaegi 327,769-243,425, with 147,224 for Andrea Raila.

In Berrios's home 31st Ward, where Berrios is committeeman, he beat Kaegi 3,297-1,573. He lost the 30th Ward 1,922-1,855, the 35th 2,907-1,848, Arroyo's 36th 1,805-1,696, the 26th 2,564-2,404, the 12th 1,742-1,691 and the 1st 4,990-2,210 but won the 22nd 1,910-1,333. However, Berrios got clobbered in liberal white suburban townships, losing Evanston 10,444-3,401 and Oak Park 10,085-2,365. If a Hispanic is going to win for mayor in 2023, the Hispanic vote will have to double. In 2015, it was about 85,000 citywide.

Mendoza, a former state representative, has generated considerable publicity attacking Governor Bruce Rauner's (R) budget practices, and will easily be re-elected to a second full term on Nov. 6. She had $1,399,726 on-hand as of June 30. Valencia, the new clerk, who is an Emanuel appointee, had $243,914 on-hand as of June 30, and could be the anointed Emanuel heir in 2023. The best-positioned alderman is Villegas, who represents the Galewood-Montclare 36th Ward, who had $141,839 on-hand as of June 30, and is part of the increasingly powerful "Arroyo Machine," which has developed a surprisingly large army of patronage workers. Arroyo's money and manpower knocked out longtime Alderman Ray Suarez in Berrios's ward in 2015, got son Luis Jr. elected to the county board in 2014, and got local lawyer Marcelino Garcia elected to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District in 2018, beating a slated candidate.

Villegas is no leftist. "We need to have better fiscal transparency and better budgetary efficiency," he said. He opposed the Emanuel budgets that raised property taxes, water fees and garbage charges. He is not endorsing Emanuel for reelection, and will spend the next 4 years positioning himself as far away from Emanuel (if reelected) as possible. Arroyo's task will be to push Mendoza off the mayoral track and into the Secretary of State's office, which may become vacant sometime before 2022 or in 2022. If two Hispanics run in 2023, neither wins.

Nasty contests are developing in some North Side Hispanic wards, and the mayor must tread carefully to not alienate any faction.

31ST WARD (Avondale): The "Berrios-Suarez Machine" ruled the ward since the 1980s, when Berrios inherited the "Tom Keane Machine." Berrios got on the old Board of Tax Appeals in 1988 and Suarez was elected alderman in 1991. Together, they raised millions, and intimidated all opposition. But they crashed and burned, starting with Toni Berrios's defeat in 2014 for state representative, then Suarez's defeat by Santiago by 79 votes, despite the alderman's 10-1 fund-raising advantage. Arroyo poured his precinct workers into the ward. And then Berrios's March loss for assessor, and ouster as county chairman. For 2019 Berrios is backing Felix Cardona, a staffer in the assessor's office, against Santiago. There is no doubt that Santiago will win, regardless of how much money Berrios spends or whom Emanuel endorses. And then Santiago will oust Berrios as committeeman in 2020. Also running is Colin Bird-Martinez.

30TH WARD (west of Logan Square): Emanuel owes Reboyras a big favor, as he is taking real heat on police "reforms." What is put in place will satisfy nobody, especially the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability's proposal to elect overseers in all 22 police districts. But the mayor also owes Gutierrez big, as he was one of the few Hispanics to back Emanuel over Garcia in 2015. Jessica Washington Gutierrez, the congressman's daughter, is running for alderman, and she will win after Reboyras goes to Springfield. Also running is Edgar Esparza

35TH WARD: This elongated ward stretches from Lawrence to Chicago Avenue, cobbling together Hispanic areas. Ramirez-Rosa easily beat incumbent Rey Colon 4,082-1,987 in 2015. He dissents from the mayor occasionally. He faces Amanda Dieterich, who positions herseelf as more liberal and anti-Emanuel than the alderman. Ramirez-Rosa is safe.

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