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Gutierrez backs Suarez rival in 31st Ward, signaling Berrios break

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said Saturday he is endorsing a challenger to longtime 31st Ward Ald. Ray Suarez.

Gutierrez’s support for Milly Santiago in next month’s city election has broader significance in local Latino politics because Suarez is a close ally of Cook County Democratic Party Chairman and Assessor Joe Berrios.

Gutierrez helped Berrios’ daughter Maria Antonia “Toni” Berrios in her unsuccessful re-election campaign last year for a state House seat.

But Gutierrez and Berrios have fallen out, and Gutierrez made a public appearance with Santiago in the Northwest Side ward on Saturday, as did new state Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, who unseated Toni Berrios.

Santiago is a former Spanish-language television news reporter and one of three challengers trying to unseat Suarez.

Born in Puerto Rico, Suarez has represented the ward since 1991 and is chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Housing and Real Estate.

He reported having more than $1.3 million in his campaign war chest at the end of last year, compared with less than $4,000 in cash on hand for Santiago.

Gutierrez and Berrios did not return calls Friday. Suarez declined comment.

Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st) and Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. (D-Chicago) also have endorsed Santiago.