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Garcia chooses a horse in 14th Ward race against Burke

Jesus "Chuy" Garcia | Rich Hein / Sun Times

Jesus "Chuy" Garcia | Rich Hein / Sun Times

Congressman-elect Jesus “Chuy” Garcia on Wednesday flexed his newfound political muscle by endorsing 28-year-old Tanya Patiño to unseat Edward Burke, Chicago’s most powerful and longest-serving alderman.

Patino is the girlfriend of Aaron Ortiz, the Garcia-backed political newcomer who defeated Burke’s brother, State Rep. Dan Burke (D-Chicago), in a primary race dominated by Edward Burke’s property tax reduction work for the riverfront hotel and condominium tower bearing the name of President Donald Trump.

Tanya Patiño | Provided photo

On Wednesday, Garcia cited that same “insult” to Burke’s majority Hispanic ward for his decision to endorse Patiño .

“It’s always been about personal self-gain. He has been a walking conflict of interest for decades. He has enriched himself. He has insulted the community by being Donald Trump’s tax appeals lawyer,” Garcia said.

“There’s been a scam in Chicago for a long time where people who are rich and powerful are getting tax breaks, and it’s neighborhood residents that have to make up the difference. Tanya will ensure that there is equity in the tax system and that rich building owners pay their fair share . . . She will [also] be a full time alderman . . . She will not have any side businesses or interests.”

Burke has run unopposed in 10 of the last 11 elections. He now has four challengers and has had a political bull’s-eye on his back ever since his brother’s stunning primary defeat.

Garcia acknowledged that Jose Luis Torrez, Jaime Guzman and Patiño are all “allies and friends” with whom the congressman-elect has “collaborated on many causes over the years.”

Choosing between them was a “tough decision,” he said. But Garcia said he ultimately decided that Patiño has the “greatest potential to put together a winning team and strategy” in the 14th Ward.

“She’s a lifelong resident. She’s the first in her family to go to college. She is homegrown. And her work in the community mentoring youth is very laudable,” he said.

“With her professional development, she is highly qualified to be a player in the Chicago City Council to increase the number of women, given the under-representation. She also embodies the rising power of younger voices in Chicago as a millennial.”

Patiño could not be reached for comment. Her nominating petitions were challenged by Raul Reyes, a Burke supporter.

An emailed statement quoted Patiño as saying she is “proud to have earned” the endorsement of the man she called a “mentor and progressive champion for as long as I can remember.”

“The people of the 14th Ward are tired of an alderman who is under FBI investigation and appeals Donald Trump’s property taxes. They deserve better,” she said.

Burke has since cited “irreconcilable differences” for his decision to stop representing Trump. But that didn’t stop Garcia from recruiting a challenger and pledging to “put the resources at my disposal” to work to secure Patiño’s election.

Pressed to put a dollar figure on that pledge, Garcia said, “I don’t know yet. I’m not a prolific fundraiser. But I certainly will call upon people who believe in having the City Council look like Chicago and in increasing the number of highly-qualified women.”

The Garcia endorsement may soon be the least of Burke’s problems.

The longtime chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee is also facing a federal corruption probe that went public during an unprecedented Nov. 29 raid on the chairman’s ward and City Hall offices.

On Wednesday, Garcia was asked whether he expects Burke to drop out of the race if federal charges against him are filed.

“It’s hard to say. Someone who has been a member of the Council for 50 years may not have considered how to live life differently,” Garcia said.

“He is having deep letting-go issues as it relates to the City Council. It’s what he knows. It’s what’s made him breathe for a long, long time.”

After the first of two federal raids on Burke’s City Hall suite, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said it was too soon to remove Burke as Finance Committee chairman.

If Burke is charged, he is almost certain to be removed immediately. But Garcia argued Wednesday that it shouldn’t take federal charges for the City Council to make a change and bring an end to the Burke era.

“Whether he is charged tomorrow or next month doesn’t really matter. Chicago needs to get cleaned up. That’s why we need to elect new, young representatives like Tanya to the Council,” Garcia said.