Think the Rahm/Chuy race is the only show in town? There’s exciting action in many of the heated ward runoffs. Miguel de Valle, who was himself a mayoral candidate only 4 years ago and has for years been a progressive voice in Chicago politics, says there’s a “power struggle” going on in that vast stretch of largely Hispanic wards from Logan Square all the way to Harlem.
If you watch this show and you love Chicago politics, you’ll be hitting Rewind a lot, because this can be hard to follow. Let’s begin with Wards 31 and 36.
“Ray” Suarez, del Valle says, couldn’t make it to 50%, despite having been in office since 1991, and with the support of Joe Berrios, the County Assessor and Chair of the Cook County Democratic Party. “Between the two of them they have about 2-1/2 million dollars in their campaign funds,” he explains.
His opponent is “Millie” Santiago, a popular former reporter and anchor for Spanish-language TV. “Santiago is being supported by State Rep. Luis Arroyo who also has a candidate in the 36th Ward, ” he explains. “Some folks figure that one of the reasons why Arroyo jumped into the 31st Ward race was to keep them occupied so that he could elect his guy (Gilbert Villegas) in the 36th Ward, because the guy running against him is a Joe Berrios ally. Did you follow me on that? And Ray Suarez has given $20,000 to the campaign of Luis Arroyo’s candidate in the 36th Ward.”
And our free lesson in Northwest-side Hispanic politics continues.
“So these wards, the 36th Ward kind wraps around the 30th and is right next to the 31st Ward,” del Valle explains. “But the fact of the matter is that there’s a power struggle here. And Congressman Luis Gutierrez has taken sides with Luis Arroyo. And he has supported Millie Santiago. Even though he’s been aligned with Joe Berrios. Chuy Garcia has been looking for support in these runoff elections, and Luis Arroyo has made a calculation, along with his 36th Ward candidate Gilbert Villegas, that there are a lot of Latino votes there (that Ward went for Chuy in the last election), so they determined that it’s in Villegas’ best interests to line up with Chuy. So Villegas and Chuy have endorsed each other, and Millie Santiago and Chuy have endorsed each other.
“Omar Aquino is attempting to run an independent campaign,” del Valle continues, “But his father was the Ward superintendent for the 31st Ward, so he comes out of the Berrios/Suarez Organization.”
Got that? But wait, there’s more. Aldertrack’s Claudia Morell adds that “Jacob Kaplan, the Executive Director of the Cook County Democratic Party, is running both the Suarez and Aquino campaigns.”
There’s no current polling available for either of these races, and del Valle says at least one, the 36th, is too close to call. So the City trucks are rolling.
“Both sides are sinking a lot of money into the races,” he says. “Both sides are heavily working the precincts. And both sides have patronage armies. Just in case you didn’t know, patronage is not dead in the City of Chicago. I’ve noticed an increase in the number of services being delivered in the 36th Ward. Trees being trimmed and other services, so I suspect that there’s a direct line to City Hall in making sure that services are delivered.”
There’s another newly-created predominantly-Hispanic Ward, this one on the South Side. And we do have some polling here. Aldertrack reports that Committeeman Ray Lopez has a 15-point lead over Rafael Yanez in the 15th Ward runoff. (He came only 100 votes short of 50%, forcing him into the runoff.) That’s bad news for supporters of the Progressive wing in the City Council.
Ald. Toni Foulkes (the former 15th Ward Alderman who moved to 16 and is now in her own runoff in that neighboring Ward) has endorsed Yanez, del Valle says, as has Alderman-Elect David Moore in the 17th Ward.
“Alderman Foulkes is part of that progressive caucus,” he explains. “It’s what I call the real progressive caucus- not the phony progressive caucus. And they’re attempting to add another member here by electing Yanez. They were able to add Carlos Rosas in the 35th Ward, so there are a lot of folks who are counting on Yanez to grow that progressive voice in the City Council.”
Lopez, Claudia Morell tells us, gets support, endorsements and money from powerful aldermen Ed Burke, Joe Moreno, Tom Tunney and Brendan Reilly. “So they are helping him out. And it’s both a good thing for him and somewhat of a bad thing, because now the Yanez campaign is highlighting him as part of the Democratic machine, and that he will put the machine over the needs of the residents.”
And Yanez, she explains, “is closely aligned with Chuy Garcia.Garcia chairs his campaign committee and they knew each other from the nonprofit work that Yanez did. Also Yanez’s campaign manager ran a couple of Garcia’s campaigns back in the day. They’re very close and they’re basically running a joint campaign.
Looks like a proxy battle that reflects the mayoral race.
“Environmental issues are taking center stage” in the tenth, according to Morell, “With the pet-coke issue, and KCBX terminals – which is a facility that transports and houses this petroleum byproduct – in 2013 there was a dust storm of pet-coke and it blanketed the neighborhoods with this black dust. So Ald. Pope proposed and got the council to pass a resolution to oversee and cap the amount of pet-coke that can be in the ward. But all of his challengers this year were for either completely banning it or putting in more restrictions. They don’t think he went far enough and so they’ve really capitalized on that issue. We did a poll yesterday in the ward and it found that Ald. Pope still has the lead among registered voters with about 40% to Garza’s 31% but with 20% undecided.”