Friday, January 4, 2019

Survival of Ed Burke? Or the creation of a new Latino political power couple?

So what’s going to be the outcome of this year’s aldermanic elections for Chicago’s 14th Ward – one of those Southwest Side bastions that likes to think its all politically powerful because its alderman for the past 50 years has been Ed Burke.
BURKE: Latinos to decide if he stays, or goes

Because he’s the council Finance chairman and has been around so long, he has developed a certain undue influence as the aldermen other aldermen seek out for support, and whom mayors themselves think twice about before double-crossing.

BUT BURKE HAS the rumor mill running overtime in thinking he’s under the microscope of the FBI. Nobody knew for what until Thursday, when federal prosecutors filed extortion charges against the long-time alderman for allegedly trying to get the owners of a Burger King franchise to throw legal business to his law firm.

Even before the charges were known, Latino activists who have long noted the area’s growing population shifting from the white Irish of old to a growing mix of Mexican-Americans were thinking this is now the time to dump Eddie and replace him with “one of our own,” so to speak.

But the one thing Burke has going in his favor is that the ethnic vote could wind up being split. It seems that five candidates of Latino ethnic backgrounds have declared their candidacies to challenge Burke come the Feb. 26 election – and April 2 runoff, if necessary.

The last official population count of the city showed the ward with a 79.89 percent total of Latinos. This is NO longer a part of the white ethnic class that three decades ago rewarded Burke for his vocal opposition to Harold Washington’s time as mayor.
Patino and Ortiz (below), … 

WITH SOME 54,000 residents roughly, only 16.87 percent are white. Although many of them are the ones who have lived in the area for decades – if not all their lives. They may also be the ones who most strongly identify with the ward’s old identity – and could easily be swayed into thinking this is an election to keep things the way they were.

Theoretically, a 78.89 percent group ought to be able to mop up the floor with the 16.87 percent group. Particularly if one thing they have in common is that it’s not a black-friendly environment (only 1.5 percent African-American population).

But then we get back to the idea of there being five candidates who will be making the political appeal that it’s “time for change.” Split that majority up five ways, and the white minority becomes large enough to win. Especially if many of the Latino voters can be swayed into thinking that casting a ballot is not worth their time.
… the couple who topple the Burkes?

It was to that end that new Rep. Jesus Garcia, D-Ill., who wants to be viewed as the most-powerful Latino in Chicago politics, felt compelled to intervene in this particular election – making an endorsement of a 28-year-old neophyte to beat Burke.

TANYA PATINO HAS never held elective office before. Her education was in engineering, and Garcia said she could bring an interesting perspective to the City Council – where most aldermen merely think of construction projects as something that brings jobs to their district and puts sizable contributions into their campaign funds.

Patino also is, according to the Chicago Tribune, the woman who is dating Aaron Ortiz, the man who next week takes over the Illinois House seat that was held for many decades by Burke’s brother, Dan. The same elements that took down Dan’s re-election last year are now being turned on Ed.

So is the Ortiz/Patino pairing going to go into the books as the one that knocked the Burkes out of the local political scene altogether? Or will Ed Burke figure out a way to stretch what likely will be his backers’ enthusiasm into a large-enough group to win?

Don’t think this can’t happen. I still recall the 1990s when Republicans got control of the redistricting process and took the Illinois House map for the southwest side and tried to create a whole series of districts meant to bolster the number of African-American legislators.
Some things haven't changed since days of Harold

IN THEORY, THEY did. But in reality, a then little-known lawyer named Tom Dart (I first met him years ago when he was with the state’s attorney’s office at the courthouse in suburban Markham) decided to use his white ethnic Mount Greenwood neighborhood base up against the black majorities that comprised the surrounding neighborhoods within the legislative district.

That 1992 election saw Dart defeat a half-dozen African-American candidates and serve in the Legislature for a decade – eventually building up the greater kind of support that has enabled him to rise to his current post as Cook County Sheriff.

I’m also aware of many suburban communities where majority African-American populations have developed, but that the local governments are run by white people who’ve been around for decades and keep getting re-elected because the long-time residents care enough to turn out to vote on Election Day – while others don’t bother.

So I’d say it’s uncertain as to what the ultimate outcome of the aldermanic election will be – Burke’s continued political survival? Or Ortiz having to accept that his girlfriend could get elected to a position that (within the local political pecking order) outranks his?


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