Is Chicago Ready for its First Latino Mayor?

Feature photo by nathanmac87

These are exciting times for Chicago; at least they are in the political arena. On September 7, Mayor Richard Daley announced that, after almost 21 years in office, he would not be running for re-election. The surprising announcement sent shockwaves through Chicago’s political landscape and all the way to the White House. Within the first week, many hopefuls had shown interest in applying for the job, but only a few stepped up to clearly declare their candidacy. The first one to do so was a Latino, Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle.

Miguel del Valle

Miguel del Valle has deep roots in Chicago and within the city’s Puerto Rican community. Born in Puerto Rico, del Valle moved to Humboldt Park at the age of four. He earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University, and he was a member of the Union for Puerto Rican Students. Del Valle’s history serving the state of Illinois and the City of Chicago goes back to 1986 when he became the first Latino senator in the Illinois General Assembly, a position he held for more than 20 years. In 2006, after the sitting city clerk was indicted, Mayor Daley appointed del Valle to the office. The following year, he won the citywide election to retain the office and became the first Latino elected City Clerk. You can learn more about del Valle at his campaign website.

On September 27, another prominent Latino, Gery Chico, announced his candidacy for mayor. Chico, of Mexican-American descent, grew up in McKinley Park. He attended the University of Illinois at Chicago and obtained his law degree from Loyola University in 1985. Chico also has a vast history serving the City of Chicago. He served as chief of staff to Mayor Daley from 1992 to 1995. He was appointed to president of the board of trustees of the Chicago Public Schools in 1995 and presided over the Chicago Park District. From March 2010 until his resignation, Chico acted as chairman to the board of trustees of the City Colleges of Chicago. To learn more about Gery Chico’s campaign and platform you can visit his campaign website.

Gery Chico

Although del Valle and Chico have a long history of serving Illinois and the City of Chicago, they are facing steep competition, including President Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. There is no doubt this will be a long road before the February election, and even longer before the new mayor takes office in May. Some political pundits are already speaking of a run-off in April. It is clear that running for the mayoral office of this city is not for the faint of heart; some individuals who expressed early interest in running have already dropped out of the race, and the campaign season has not officially started yet!

Another Latino who initially expressed his desire to run for mayor was State Representative Luis Gutierrez. During the “Cinco de Mayo” parade, Gutierrez started collecting signatures, just to announce recently that he would not be seeking the Mayor’s office and would rather concentrate on passing comprehensive immigration reform. Gutierrez has not thrown his full support behind any candidate and has said that he will wait until the campaigns are in full swing to endorse anyone.

As for now, the candidates are concentrating on obtaining the 12,500 signatures necessary to appear in the February ballot. Their platforms are yet to be fully defined. Come December, we will be able to compare and contrast the candidates and where they stand on the issues. In the meantime we wait to see who stays in, who steps out and who has yet to jump in before time runs out.

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