Friday, October 15, 2010

Gutierrez wants to be king-maker on sidelines, rather than candidate on ballot

Here is why I am always reluctant to make political predictions – you never know when the unexpected element will kick in.
He wants to pick, not be, el alcalde de Chicago

Because in all honesty, I find the fact that Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., will not be a candidate for mayor of Chicago in next year’s municipal elections to be an even bigger surprise than the fact that Richard M. Daley is not seeking re-election.

I FULLY EXPECTED Gutierrez to be among the half-dozen or so candidates who will draw serious attention once the ballot settles down. Not that I’m saying I thought he was going to win. Only that his ego would be so intense that he would be crowing about his significance and why it makes him fit to be Chicago mayor.

Gutierrez, a one-time alderman back in the 1980s who has been a member of Congress for the past 18 years, told people at a gathering at the University of Illinois at Chicago that he wants to be involved with the fight in the federal government for the significant reform that our nation’s immigration laws desperately need.

Gutierrez has been one of the few political people willing to talk up the issue during the past year. My guess is that he believes if he leaves Washington, none of the remaining politicos will have the courage to stand up to the nativist element of our society that thinks they can intimidate us into inaction with their continuous shouts of, “illegal alien!!!!!!!”

As Gutierrez put it, his interest in that issue (which doesn’t directly affect him because he is of Puerto Rican background – making him a U.S. citizen by birth) is so intense that he would only be able to do a “half-hearted” job on all the other tasks and issues that a mayor is confronted with.

“I DON’T WANT two different things tugging at my heart,” Gutierrez said on Thursday. Perhaps he paid attention to the portion of a poll he commissioned last week that, while finding him in the running for mayor and the favorite of Latino voters, also found that 45 percent of Latinos thought they’d be better off if Gutierrez stayed in Congress, compared to 28 percent who think it would be better if we had Alcalde Gutierrez working as the “Man on Five.”

I will give Gutierrez one bit of praise. There are plenty of political people who would have let their ambition get the best of them. They would have gone for mayor, even though they realized they would only do a “half-hearted” job.

Heck. Until now, I thought Gutierrez was one of them.

Reading reports of Gutierrez’ announcement, I noticed his comments about how he hasn’t endorsed anybody, but he plans to be active in the mayoral campaign season (which for many locals is the REAL election cycle, after the boring one for Illinois government posts staggers to a finish on Nov. 2).

THAT IS AN understatement.

Because I fully expect El Gallito to crow loudly and repeatedly during the mayoral election. I also expect him to portray himself as the powerbroker who can deliver the city’s Latino voter bloc to whichever candidate he chooses to endorse.

For Gutierrez, in between trying to kick some congressional nalgas into action on immigration reform, will be searching for the candidate who can defeat Rahm Emanuel.

I believe that Gutierrez is like everybody else in thinking that no one will win a clear majority in the Feb. 22 non-partisan election, resulting in an April 5 run-off between the former White House chief of staff and somebody else.

I’M SURE THAT Gutierrez wants to put himself in a position where he can spew rhetoric that claims he is responsible for helping that other person get into a position where he (or she, you never know) can beat up on Emanuel.

Because I am convinced that the absolute last thing Gutierrez wants is the same absolute last thing that many other Chicagoans want – the one-time “Rahm-bo” holding THE pre-eminent political position at City Hall.

Gutierrez is among those who agree with Latino activists who believe that the reason the Obama Administration has been so unwilling to offer up anything more than lip service to immigration reform is because Emanuel didn’t want the political fight that would have to be engaged in for that issue.

Emanuel might very well be right that immigration reform is a political battle that will be intense (because for Congress to do the decent thing, certain people are just going to have to get over their ethnic hang-ups) and would have aroused so much anger that it would have harmed the chances of anything else getting accomplished.

THEN AGAIN, LATINO activists would argue that even by not touching the issue, the situation is still one where the partisan opposition to Obama is so intense that there is little chance of anything significant getting accomplished.

Nonetheless, we can count on Gutierrez to be one of the “interests” that tries to block Emanuel’s path to City Hall, no matter how many statements Emanuel puts out that claims he and Luis are, “friends who worked together on important issues.”

Which may well make this the first time that Gutierrez has united Chicagoans of varied ethnic backgrounds on a single issue.


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