Latino challenge to Ald. Pope brewing on Southeast Side

SHARE Latino challenge to Ald. Pope brewing on Southeast Side

To many people from elsewhere around the city, the Southeast Side is Chicago’s version of flyover country. They see this heavily industrial part of town only from the Chicago Skyway toll bridge as they pass through, rarely setting foot in neighborhoods the locals know by names like Slag Valley.

“It’s the land time forgot,” says Al Sanchez, the former city Streets and Sanitation Department commissioner who grew up there and moved back after completing his federal prison term on a corruption conviction.

As overlooked as it might be, the 10th Ward — which covers most of the Southeast Side — has often played an outsized role in Chicago politics.

The area was the power base of Mayor Harold Washington’s “Council Wars” nemesis, Ald. Edward “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak.

Later, the Southeast Side served as the launching pad for the Hispanic Democratic Organization, which quickly became the biggest cog in Mayor Richard M. Daley’s machine. HDO connections were a prime way to land a city job with decent pay and benefits — if you proved yourself by working for Daley-blessed candidates in Hispanic precincts across the city and suburbs. In its heyday, in 1999, HDO spurned four Hispanic candidates and worked to elect a white, little-known Daley aide named John Pope as 10th Ward alderman.

“At that time, the ward was mostly white, so it made sense,” Sanchez says now.

HDO was disbanded in 2008, in the wake of the federal corruption probe that exposed rigged hiring and promotions in the Daley administration.

But now remnants of the once-fearsome patronage army are said to be preparing a comeback. There’s talk of them backing former city official Jorge Perez against their old ally Pope in next year’s council election.

“I personally met with Jorge, and he told me he’s considering running for alderman, and Al is a great guy who’s supporting him,” says longtime 10th Ward activist Tony Navarro.

Talk of a Perez challenge spread after Sanchez and other former HDO operatives gathered with Perez a month ago at Loncar Liquors, a tavern on East 92nd Street.

But Perez and Sanchez downplay the political significance of the get-together.

“It was just a Cinco de Mayo event for some fellows to get together and have a few drinks, to celebrate our heritage,” says Sanchez, who was once HDO’s leader on the Southeast Side and was convicted of rigging hiring at Streets and San for the group’s loyalists.

Still, Perez won’t rule out running against Pope.

“In the last few months, more people have asked me to run than I ever thought,” says Perez, who is executive director of the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association, known as HACIA. “I have no decision right now.”

Asked whether he thinks things have gotten better in the ward under Pope, Perez says, “That depends on what sector of the neighborhood you’re in. I won’t give him a grade just yet.”

He says he thinks manufacturing is on the upswing but that life for people who live in the ward isn’t always great: “There’s still some nice homes, nice pockets, but crime — like anywhere — it’s high.”

Without directly criticizing Pope, Sanchez says he’s among those who like Perez and are curious to see if he’ll run.

“In any election, there’s nothing wrong with opposition, just to find out where everybody’s at,” Sanchez says. “Democracy in action is always good, right?”

Pope didn’t return calls Tuesday. He’s been a reliable vote on the council for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s agenda, just as he was for Daley.

Perez also has ties to the current administration. Emanuel appointed him to the city’s Community Development Commission soon after taking office as mayor in 2011.

A race between Pope and a well-funded Latino challenger with roots in the ward could pull Chicago’s flyover precincts out from under the shadows of the Skyway again.

The Latest
The decision comes after escalating pressure from Biden’s Democratic allies to step aside following the June 27 debate, in which the 81-year-old president trailed off, often gave nonsensical answers and failed to call out the former president’s many falsehoods.
The Bears’ running back had 156 receptions for 1,198 yards and seven touchdowns in three seasons with the Lions, but only 39 receptions for 214 yards and one touchdown with the Eagles last year. He figures to get a bigger opportunity in Shane Waldron’s offense in 2024.
It wasn’t just one bad night but what that bad night represented.
While Pritzker has emphatically expressed his support of Biden, he’s also not quashed the narrative that he has White House ambitions.
After years of having far too little at those crucial positions, the Bears now have more than enough.