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Dynasty dissing in ward races: Fair political fodder or ‘blatant sexism’?

Ald Deb Mell (33rd), left, and 30th Ward aldermanic candidate Jessica W. Gutierrez, right. File Photos. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

They’re both daughters of powerful politicians, but two aldermanic candidates say that doesn’t give anyone the right to call them “daddy’s little girl.”

Jessica Washington Gutierrez, a candidate in the 30th Ward, calls it “blatant sexism.” And 33rd Ward Ald. Deb Mell calls it “misogynistic.”

Gutierrez is the daughter of former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez.

Mell is the daughter of former Ald. Dick Mell.

Both women are vying in hotly contested runoffs on Tuesday. Both say their family history comes up far too often on the campaign trail.

Jessica Gutierrez is campaigning on a pledge to be a “fresh voice” in the City Council. She’s trying to unseat Ald. Ariel Reboyras.

But text messages sent to some voters in her Northwest Side ward are calling her “daddy’s little girl.”

Some voters on Thursday were sent a text that read, “Jessica Gutierrez’s daddy is trying to buy this election. Tell them we aren’t for sale! Re-elect Reboyras today!” The text also included a link to Reboyras’ website.

Gutierrez on Thursday called the message “blatant sexism” and “disappointing.”

“Desperate in the face of defeat, he is stooping to this gross language that attempts to belittle an independent woman who has been leading her own career for many years,” Jessica Gutierrez said in a statement. “Ald. Reboyras, you continue to show your contempt for young women running for office.”

30th Ward challenger Jessica W. Gutierrez, left, and Ald. Ariel E. Reboyras (30th), right. File Photos. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
30th Ward challenger Jessica W. Gutierrez, left, and Ald. Ariel E. Reboyras (30th), right. File Photos. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Reboyras told the Sun-Times he didn’t know whether the text was sent on behalf of his campaign. But he said he doesn’t believe the message was sexist. And he doubled down on the message.

“Why? Because it’s the truth,” Reboyras said. “Daddy’s trying to buy her a seat in the City Council. … She calls me the machine politician. I think it’s the opposite.”

He was asked whether he believed using the word “daddy” could be construed as sexist.

“I don’t think so, no,” Reboyras said. “I’m not that type of person. I’m working a very hard campaign, and you have someone coming into the ward without having any knowledge of the ward.”

Reboyras, 65, was first elected in 2003 and is seeking his fifth term. He’s also a key ally to outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel, something his challengers have worked to highlight. Jessica Gutierrez has called him a “rubber stamp alderman.”

Ald. Deb Mell said she’s suffered the same on social media, and even by a fellow alderman at a CAPS meeting.

“‘Aren’t you daddy’s little girl?'” she was asked.

“This is not OK,” Deb Mell said on Thursday. “I can only speak for myself. I have a 10-year record, and I’m proud of that record and the work that I’ve done and the accomplishments I’ve had on my own. And I understand how to stand on my own two feet and I’m sure she [Gutierrez] does too.”

Deb Mell faces community activist Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez in Tuesday’s election. First appointed to succeed her father in 2013, Mell narrowly avoided a runoff in 2015.

33rd Ward aldermanic candidate Rossana Rodr’iguez-S‡anchez meets with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in January. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
33rd Ward aldermanic candidate Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez meets with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in January. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Luis Gutierrez told reporters last year that he was, in part, leaving Congress to help his daughter win. Since then, he helped raise money for his daughter’s campaign and even knocking on doors to bolster her chances.

Family ties are nothing new in the Chicago City Council.

With his wife Soraida, left, and daughter Jessica by his side, U.S. Representative Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) fights back emotions as he announces he will retire from Congress at at a 2017 news conference. (File Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
With his wife Soraida, left, and daughter Jessica by his side, U.S. Representative Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) fights back emotions as he announces he will retire from Congress at at a 2017 news conference. (File Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Ald Edward R. Vrdolyak (10th) helped anoint his brother, Victor, his successor in 1986; Mayor Richard M. Daley tapped Margaret Laurino to replace her father in the 39th Ward in 1994; and Ald. Carrie Austin was named 34th Ward alderman after her husband died of a heart attack. Eight years ago, Ald. Roderick Sawyer won the 6th Ward aldermanic seat once held by his father, former Mayor Eugene Sawyer.

Deb Mell believes messaging that highlights ties to a political family works for some voters.

Ald. Dick Mell at a City Council meeting in 2009. | Sun-Times file photo
Ald. Dick Mell at a City Council meeting in 2009. | Sun-Times file photo

“I think it does work with a little bit of the clientele because they see sons and daughters of politicians or what have you having some kind of advantage,” she said. “I went through it. But I can only speak for myself and I had a very difficult election in 2015.”

Jessica Gutierrez issued a statement saying she’s out every day talking to voters and expects to beat Reboyras on Tuesday.

“Desperate in the face of defeat, he is stooping to this gross language that attempts to belittle an independent woman who has been leading her own career for many years,” she said.

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