About $2.8 million in outside money in Villegas, Ramirez Illinois 3rd congressional primary

Outside money is a major factor in the Democratic primary for the new Hispanic plurality 3rd congressional district.

SHARE About $2.8 million in outside money in Villegas, Ramirez Illinois 3rd congressional primary
Ald. Gil Villegas, state Rep. Delia Ramirez are the major contenders in the 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary.

Ald. Gil Villegas, state Rep. Delia Ramirez are the major contenders in the 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary.

Sun-Times file photos

Expenditures of about $2.8 million from outside groups are a big factor in the newly created 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary, where Ald. Gil Villegas (36th) and state Rep. Delia Ramirez, D-Chicago, are the front-runners.

BACKGROUND: The new 3rd was 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 from Addison, Bensenville to West Chicago to Winfield. It is heavily Democratic; the June 28 primary winner is all but certain to clinch the seat in November.

ALSO RUNNING IN THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY: Iymen Chehade, a college instructor who figures in the House Ethics probe of Rep. Marie Newman, D-Ill., and Juan Enrique Aguirre, a registered nurse interested in cannabis industry equity issues.

RAISED BY CANDIDATE CAMPAIGNS THROUGH JUNE 8: Villegas, $949,926; Ramirez, $616,212; Chehade, $150,747; and Aguirre, who did not file a June report, $11,172 as of March 31.

The amounts the Villegas’ and Ramirez’s campaigns raised are overwhelmed by money pouring in from outside national groups who are not supposed to coordinate or communicate with the campaigns they are trying to help.

Ramirez has the support of some of the most far-left groups in the Democratic orbit, and Villegas, by comparison, is backed by more moderate progressives whose ranks include House members from swing districts. The 3rd District battle is part of a larger proxy fight by groups wanting to pull Democrats further to the left. It is being played out in a safe Democratic district. The winner of the June 28 Illinois primary will clinch the seat in November.

OUTSIDE GROUP SPENDING: According to Federal Election Commission records — which require groups making independent expenditures to declare who they are supporting or opposing:

  • About $1 million was spent by outside groups to support Ramirez and some $565,000 to oppose Villegas.
  • About $800,000 was spent by outside groups to support Villegas and some $420,000 to oppose Ramirez.

Among the biggest spenders:

  • Villegas served in the Marines. VoteVets Action Fund as of Thursday, spent a total of $959,000; $741,200 to support Villegas and $218,000 to oppose Ramirez.

VoteVets Chair Jon Soltz said, “We will not shy away from comparing Gil’s record to others when it comes to important issues for people in the district.”

For Ramirez, EMILY’S List Women Vote! so far reported a $163,332 independent expenditure, $398,000 from the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC and $637,900 from the Working Families Party PAC, which outside of the independent expenditures also paid for two polls.

DMFI, the pro-Israel PAC, backing Villegas, spent $157, 223 to defeat Ramirez who is endorsed by Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill., one of the eight Democrats to vote against the Iron Dome missile defense funding for Israel last year.

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. On Thursday night, the Ramirez campaign announced that Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Ramirez. Ramirez said, “It is an honor” to receive the endorsement and she was “beyond proud.”


VILLEGAS: As I reported in November, Villegas, 51, a Council member since 2015, is a former Marine, state of Illinois official and bakery truck driver who co-founded a government relations firm.

Villegas joined the Marines after graduating in 1988 from Theodore Roosevelt High School, at 3436 W. Wilson Ave., where he played Roughrider baseball and football.

During his four years in the Corps, Villegas rose to the rank of corporal, becoming a logistics specialist deploying for stints in Japan, the Philippines and, during Operations Desert Shield and Storm, Saudi Arabia.

Villegas is the chair of the City Council’s Latino Caucus.

RAMIREZ: As I reported in December, the daughter of immigrants, Ramirez, 38, is the first Guatemalan American to serve in the Illinois General Assembly, where she is an assistant majority leader. She was first elected to the state House in 2018.

Living in Humboldt Park since she was 7 years old, Ramirez attended the Sabin Elementary School, 2216 W Hirsch St., and the Prosser Career Academy, 2148 N Long Ave., for her first three years of high school. She graduated from the now closed St. Gregory High School, 1677 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., in 2001.

After high school, Ramirez started working at neighborhood nonprofits while attending classes at Northeastern Illinois University, 5500 N. St. Louis Ave., majoring in Justice Studies. It took her 12 years to complete her degree.

She is the founding executive director of the Center for Changing Lives, a Northwest Side social service organization.

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