Luis Gutierrez, Chuy Garcia endorsement divide in new Illinois Hispanic congressional district

The Sun-Times has learned that ex-Rep. Luis Gutierrez and Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza on Monday will endorse the Democratic primary bid of Ald. Gil Villegas.

SHARE Luis Gutierrez, Chuy Garcia endorsement divide in new Illinois Hispanic congressional district
Ald. Gil Villegas and state Rep. Delia Ramirez, the leading Democratic contenders in the new Illinois 3rd Congressional District.

Ald. Gil Villegas and state Rep. Delia Ramirez, the leading Democratic contenders in the new Illinois 3rd Congressional District.

Sun-Times files

WASHINGTON — The first Hispanic member of Congress from Illinois – ex-Rep. Luis Gutierrez — and the second — Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia — are endorsing different candidates in the Democratic primary virtually certain to yield the third Hispanic member of Congress from the state.

The Chicago Sun-Times has learned that Gutierrez on Monday will endorse the Democratic primary bid of Ald. Gil Villegas (36th) at an event at the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union 130 hall, 1340 W. Washington Blvd.

Villegas will also pick up the support Monday of Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, the highest-ranking Hispanic elected official in Illinois.

Garcia in February backed state Rep. Delia Ramirez, D-Chicago.

Illinois Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Lauren Underwood and Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts are among the elected officials who are endorsing Ramirez.

Villegas and Ramirez are the Democratic front-runners in the newly created 3rd Congressional District, designed by state Democratic mapmakers in the wake of the 2020 census to acknowledge the growing Hispanic population in the state by creating a second district highly likely to elect a Hispanic to Congress.

The new 3rd has about 43.7% voting age Hispanics and is anchored on Chicago’s Northwest Side and northern suburbs. It is heavily Democratic; the June 28 primary winner is all but certain to clinch the seat in November.

Villegas “represents the future of the Democratic party,” Gutierrez told the Sun-Times. He is critical of Democrats and groups — such as the Working Families Party which supports Ramirez — who identify with the “defund the police” slogan and movement.

Mendoza told the Sun-Times, “Villegas has spent his career fighting to better the lives of regular working people. His common-sense approach to legislating resonates with the voters of the new 3rd Congressional District from my working-class neighborhood of Portage Park out to West Chicago.”

On the Working Families Party website, the group says they support shifting “resources away from policing, jails and detention centers, endless wars and agencies that separate families.”

Gutierrez said, “I don’t want to send another congressman (to Washington) who is going into the defund the police caucus.I want a Congressman who is going to hold the police to a high level of accountability but is also going to guarantee they are better trained, better equipped and better understanding of the (impact of) escalation.”

The Working Families Party highlights on its web page, among other members, Garcia and his colleagues on the “Squad” — Democrats Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

Ramirez is also endorsed by “The Peoples Lobby,” a group advocating, as it says on its website, for “defunding Cook County Jail.”

The differences between Gutierrez and Garcia mirror divides among Democrats across the nation between pragmatists and progressives further to the left, especially those from safe districts.

The “defund the police” messaging makes it more difficult for Democrats to be elected in swing districts with more moderate voters — a point that has been made by former President Barack Obama. President Joe Biden often says he is for funding - not defunding - the police.

That’s because “defund the police” language feeds former President Donald Trump and other Republicans intent on portraying Democrats as soft on crime, unappreciative of good police and captives of radical elements within their ranks.

Ramirez is trailing Villegas when it comes to fundraising. The Working Families Party is backing up its endorsement of Ramirez with independent expenditures on her behalf. According to FEC records, in April, the Working Families Party national political action committee spent $179,500 on digital ads to benefit Ramirez.

Emily’s List political action committee, Women Vote!, spent $66,073 in April to boost Ramirez, FEC records show.

As of March 31, Villegas raised a total of $781,979 for his campaign, according to the Federal Election Commission, compared with Ramirez collecting $418,977. Ramirez has a fundraiser in D.C. next week.

No third party group so far is spending money to elect Villegas.

A spokesperson for Ramirez asked to specifically explain where she stands on the “defund the police” slogan and cause, said in reply Ramirez, an assistant Majority Leader, “voted to secure over $300 million in evidence-based approaches like expanding mental health resources, violence prevention, and domestic violence programs, as well as supporting major efforts to reduce the rape kit backlog.

“And she voted to invest resources into creating….. programs along with providing more than $100 million in funding training and pension benefits for police officers and first responders. Leader Ramirez wholeheartedly believes that investing in people and the root causes of violence, namely poverty, and racism, is the best approach to reckon with the violence we face.”

The district in Cook and DuPage Counties sweeps in parts of Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale, Hermosa, Belmont Cragin plus portions of suburban Franklin Park, Addison, Bensenville, Bloomingdale, West Chicago and Elgin.

Gutierrez served in Congress between 1993 and 2019, and when he decided not to seek another term, he anointed Garcia his successor.

Gutierrez, referring to Garcia, said, “More than two Latinos having a difference, it’s two Democrats having a difference, two lifelong Democrats having a difference about who would be the best representative of the people of the third congressional district.”

To the point of Republicans weaponizing the defund the police slogan, the lone Republican running in the new 3rd, Justin Burau, from Winfield, a vice president of operations at Home Smart, a real estate and mortgage firm, states on his website, “Calls and actions by Democrats to defund the police have led to the rise of criminal activities and organizations, while Democrats stand to the side and let violence run rampant in our streets.”

Here is the link to Villegas full endorsement list.

Here is the link to Ramirez full endorsement list.

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