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Dynasty slayer Rodriguez Sanchez ready to build bridges—not rehash past battles

33rd Ward candidate Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez shows her "I voted" sticker after voting at the polling station at American Indian Center, located in Chicago's Kimball neighborhood on Election Day, April 2, 2019. File Photo. | Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times

Fresh off accepting Ald. Deb Mell’s concession, Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez attended a luncheon meeting Tuesday of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus.

Then she hurried back to her job in the career center at Columbia College.

Before starting her new career as 33rd Ward alderman on May 20, Rodriguez Sanchez still has a couple of weeks to wrap up some loose ends in her old one as the school’s internship and career advisor for theater and dance.

In the meantime, Rodriguez Sanchez must hire a new aldermanic staff, find a location for her ward office and possibly give some thought about who should be chosen as the City Council’s new finance chairman.

On that latter question, Rodriguez Sanchez said nobody has contacted her yet.

“I just got here,” she laughed, which is quite literally true in her case.

33rd Ward aldermanic candidate Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez meets with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in January. File Photo.| Rich Hein/Sun-Times
33rd Ward aldermanic candidate Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez meets with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in January. File Photo.| Rich Hein/Sun-Times

More so than any other Council newcomer, Rodriguez Sanchez couldn’t be sure of her victory until she was officially proclaimed the winner by a narrow 13-vote margin on April 18, after every last ballot had been counted.

Even then, she didn’t have absolute certainty until a partial recount was conducted last week that caused Mell to decide there was no sense in fighting the outcome any longer.

Rodriguez Sanchez was among five new Democratic Socialist candidates elected to the City Council, where they will join Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) to form a potential six-person voting bloc that looms as an unpredictable new force in city government.

Rodriguez Sanchez said she and Mell have agreed to work together during the transition.

Toward that end, she refused to take the bait when I prodded her about a comment from Mell that she had to “chuckle” about Rodriguez Sanchez campaign officials saying they “beat the Machine” when they toppled Mell’s family’s 44-year hold on the alderman’s office.

“There hasn’t been a machine in the 33rdWard for a very long time,” Mell told the Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman.

Ald. Deb Mell met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in January. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
Ald. Deb Mell met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in January. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

In their own court filing in preparation for a possible recount, lawyers for Rodriguez Sanchez had argued the old 33rd Ward Democratic organization of former Ald. Dick Mell, father of Deb Mell, was very much in evidence on Election Day. They accused Mell campaign workers of numerous instances of throwing their weight around improperly inside polling places.

Rodriguez Sanchez said she still believes Deb Mell “got that job because of the Machine.”

But she said that’s no longer something she cares to discuss.

“Now, I’m like over that,” she said.

Rodriguez Sanchez said she is “very aware” her slim 13-vote winning margin means she needs to demonstrate to Mell’s supporters that she is going to work with everyone.

Rodriguez Sanchez said she and Mell are planning to meet soon to discuss ongoing ward projects.

Signs for 33rd Ward aldermanic rivals Deb Mell and Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez are seen side by side in Horner Park on Feb. 26. Mell conceded over the weekend, saying her opponent “ran a great race.” | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times
Signs for 33rd Ward aldermanic rivals Deb Mell and Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez are seen side by side in Horner Park on Feb. 26. Mell conceded over the weekend, saying her opponent “ran a great race.” | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

She said it’s even possible she will retain Mell’s 33rd Ward office location, at least until the end of the year.

“We need to see if it economically makes sense,” she said.

Rodriguez Sanchez said she has already chosen her own campaign manager, Chris Poulos, to be her new chief of staff.

Something I’ve been curious about is whether the Progressive Caucus would be considered progressive enough for the Democratic Socialists, who seem to be to the political left of their predecessors.

For now, at least, they are planning to work together.

“I think we are going to build alliances on different issues,” Rodriguez Sanchez said. “I’m sure there are plenty of issues we will be able to work on.”

She said Tuesday’s caucus meeting was mostly just a get acquainted orientation session, but she said the newcomers were asked what subjects interest them.

“One of the things I talked about was the Welcoming City ordinance,” said Rodriguez Sanchez, who wants to eliminate exceptions that currently allow Chicago police to cooperate with federal immigration authorities in certain circumstances.

She said closing the loopholes would make Chicago a “true sanctuary city.”

33rd Ward candidate Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez takes a selfie with one of her supporters after voting at the American Indian Center. File Photo. | Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times
33rd Ward candidate Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez takes a selfie with one of her supporters after voting at the American Indian Center. File Photo. | Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times

As a Democratic Socialist, Rodriguez Sanchez said she is interested in closing the gap between the haves and have nots to make sure those who “create the wealth” share in it.

“We need to make sure everyone is paying their fair share,” she said, promising to look for “progressive sources of revenue.”

Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot, who also talked vaguely about progressive revenue sources during her campaign, has yet to be in touch with Rodriguez Sanchez.

They both just got here.

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