To the degree that anyone has paid attention to the Latino voter bloc in Chicago this election cycle, it is to see various polls that show mayoral hopeful Miguel del Valle taking a significant share of it, but no other.
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That is why del Valle’s campaign is the one that gets listed as fourth among the four major candidates, and is the one that most people (including myself) give little chance of succeeding.
BUT THE FACT that del Valle does take a significant share of support and attention from Latino voters could also be what keeps the campaign of Gery Chico from being able to finish in second place – which seems to be the standard that everybody is shooting for.
Get into an April 5 runoff election against Rahm Emanuel, and count on all the ABR’s of the world to cast their ballots for Anybody But Rahm and in their favor.
Which, to me at least, explains the two most recent endorsements that the Chico campaign has made a point of touting. On Friday, the Rev. Wilfredo de Jesus gave up his mayoral campaign, saying he was prepared to back Chico.
That was followed up with the Sunday stunt in which Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. (whom various polls indicate would have been the mayoral preference of the Chicago Latino voter bloc, had he chosen to run for mayor) gave his own endorsement to Chico.
COULD IT BE that in a desire to dump Emanuel AND get a Latino official elected as mayor of Chicago, the voter bloc is being asked to give up on one of its long-time elected officials?
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For his part, Chico has not tried running as the “Latino candidate” in this election cycle. In fact, he’s made a point of touting his ethnic background as including Greek and Lithuanian ties, just as much as the Mexican ethnicity that is in his family tree.
So for those whose idea of “acceptable” ethnicity lies within Europe, they can think of Chico as one of their own, while the growing (and spreading – read the Chicago Sun-Times story from this weekend) Latino population also knows he’s “one of ours” as well.
That could be a lot of votes. When combined with the ABR’s, it could be enough to win a head-to-head election – which means former Gov. Jim Edgar may turn out to be correct when he predicted last year the scenario in which we get a Latino for mayor.
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BUT TO BEAT Rahm, who is going to have the support of the political establishment that was completely comfortable with a “Mayor Daley” for the past 21 years, Chico needs to bolster his support.
If anything, he now needs to become the “Latino candidate.”
Which is why he took the support of de Jesus (the minister whose own views about homosexuality would have made the Rev. James Meeks sound like a “liberal freak”), and was willing to play up the fact that Gutierrez is touting him.
Perhaps becoming the Latino candidate who can also play off the more liberal activists and the white ethnics whose disgust with Emanuel is so intense that they decide to ignore his Latino ties and think of him as a token Lithuanian (or Greek) will enable him to get the support to top Moseley-Braun, who is going to be able to count on enough African-American votes from the segment that is determined to have another black person as mayor of Chicago that she could win – even though recent revelations likely reinforce the notion that no one else will vote for her.
PERSONALLY, IT DOESN’T shock me that de Jesus and Gutierrez chose to back Chico rather than del Valle. The former has some momentum that will let him reach out to enough other kinds of people that he could have a chance to win.
But I also would suspect that de Jesus (who has a position with the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals) and the Congressman both have their own amount of influence within the Latino segment of the city that competes with the influence del Valle has locally.
If anything, Chico – although he has run the Chicago Public Schools, the City Colleges of Chicago and the Chicago Park district – is not as tied into these neighborhood political ties.
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That probably means, in the minds of Gutierrez and de Jesus, that their local influence remains the same with a “Mayor Chico,” while a “Mayor del Valle” would impact their influence in a negative manner. They’d be less important.
SO WHILE THE two “major” stories of this mayoral election cycle have been Emanuel’s residential status and the desire of black activists to pick a consensus candidate who is African-American, perhaps we ought to start focusing on a third story – one involving the Latino voter bloc and whether Chico takes enough of it to have a chance to win.
Or will it remain solidly enough behind del Valle that neither man wins, and we get the runoff election between Emanuel and Moseley-Braun – the scenario that definitely would show us just how much has Chicago overcome racial hostility when it comes to electoral politics.