The proxy battle to replace Ald. Edward Burke in the 14th Ward is between allies of the indicted outgoing alderman and ‘Chuy’ García newstrendslive

The two candidates vying to become the first new alderman representing the Southwest Side 14th Ward in more than five decades are new to most Chicagoans, but the political power brokers supporting their candidacies are plenty familiar.

In a continuation of the fight for control of the ward that’s been going on for years, outgoing Ald. Edward Burke has ties to one candidate, Raúl Reyes. Mayoral candidate and U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García is backing the other, Jeylú Gutiérrez.

It’s the latest chapter in the Burke vs. García Southwest Side political face-off, which continues even as Burke opted not to run for a 14th term while facing federal corruption charges alleging he used his aldermanic office to try to coerce developers into hiring his law firm. Burke has pleaded not guilty.

Not sure which ward you live in? Type your address into the search box below.

Reyes, an employee in the city clerk’s office who has been part of Burke’s 14th Ward political organization, received a $50,000 contribution to his campaign from Dan Burke, the outgoing alderman’s brother and former state representative who was himself a casualty of the struggle between García and Burke. Dan Burke lost his Springfield seat in 2018 to Aaron Ortiz, who won thanks to strong backing from García, dealing a blow to the Burke family political dynasty.

Ortiz then took out Edward Burke for 14th Ward Democratic committeeman in 2020, ending Burke’s 52-year hold on that party post.

On the other side this year, García and Ortiz have both endorsed Gutiérrez, district director for Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya, who’s a close García ally. Gutiérrez said she’s working to represent the whole ward after Burke lavished attention on the whiter parts of the Southwest Side neighborhoods that have been his traditional political strongholds.

“As we all know, we’ve had the same alderman for 53 years,” Gutiérrez said. “In the past years, we’ve been neglected and forgotten. The services in our communities haven’t been equally distributed. And a lot of people, of course, are concerned that, whomever it is, the person taking over, make sure that person is going to work for all of us.”

A Gutiérrez win would be satisfying for García and lengthen his Southwest Side political coattails. While the congressman has made a non-aggression pact with one Irish Southwest Side politician facing federal charges, former state House Speaker Michael Madigan, he has made repeated attempts to chop away at Burke’s once unassailable fiefdom.

Perhaps boosting Gutiérrez’s chances, the City Council changed the contours of the ward in the recent citywide remap.

Long among the council’s most influential members, Edward Burke had a behind-the-scenes hand in controlling the once-per-decade exercise in years past.

But this time, Mayor Lori Lightfoot made it clear she disapproved of one map proposal that looked friendly to the politically weakened incumbent. Aldermen in May 2022 instead passed a version in which the 14th Ward jettisoned a piece of the Garfield Ridge neighborhood north and west of Midway Airport where lots of white city workers live and Burke piled up a huge lead over two challengers in the 2019 election.

Burke, who has reigned as 14th Ward alderman since 1969, declined in November to file petitions to get his name on the ballot for reelection. He could not be reached for comment about the candidates running to succeed him.

Jeylú Gutiérrez canvasses in the Gage Park neighborhood on Feb. 2, 2023.

Gutiérrez and Reyes are now campaigning in a ward that’s 88.4% Latino, centered around the Archer Heights, Gage Park and Chicago Lawn neighborhoods east of the airport.

Some of those areas are already in the ward, and Gutiérrez said it’s obvious they haven’t been getting the attention residents deserve.

“You could drive around and see the difference in Gage Park and Archer Heights,” Gutiérrez said, noting two neighborhoods that she said were often overlooked by Burke. “The paving of the streets, they’re not clean enough. The curbs, the tall branches of the trees never have been trimmed. The type of alleys we have in Brighton Park and Gage Park.”

Gutiérrez also said residents want an alderman with plans to address violence that’s getting worse in many parts of the ward. She said she wants to collaborate with police to improve their relationships with residents, and work to give young people community centers and other options to keep them off the streets.

“We don’t have those spaces for kids, so we need to make sure we have those resources in our communities so kids are doing good things,” she said. “So kids can get involved in sports. Maybe we can have trades for the youngsters in our community centers.”

Traffic at LaSalle and Randolph streets in front of City Hall on Jan. 5, 2022, in Chicago.

Reyes could not be reached for comment about his candidacy.

His campaign website makes the case to Latino voters and others in the ward that he’s the candidate who will best represent their interests.

“Tired of waiting for basic city services? So is Raúl Reyes!” reads a post on the site in English and Spanish.

Despite the federal corruption charges, Burke won reelection easily in 2019 in a heavily Latino ward against two Latino candidates, one of them backed by García.

But Reyes could have a tougher time winning over residents in parts of the ward where his connection to the Burke organization won’t carry as much weight, and where he might not be able to count on as many former Burke campaign volunteers to help him get the word out.

On his campaign site, Reyes said he has “worked to bring city services to the ward’s residents,” and he is “committed to continue bringing that dedication to all the residents of every neighborhood in the new 14th Ward.”

Reyes’ site also includes an “issues” section that says, “We will be concentrating on each issue one-by-one and rolling out the strategy every couple of weeks.”

As of Friday, the site included headings for crime reduction, education, affordable housing and city services, but lacked any information about Reyes’ strategies to address those concerns.

Twitter @_johnbyrne

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.