Ald. Ray Lopez running for Congress against Rep. Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia

Ray Lopez, representing the 15th Ward on the Chicago City Council, plans to challenge U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in the 4th Congressional District’s Democratic primary election in March.

SHARE Ald. Ray Lopez running for Congress against Rep. Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia
Ray López, quien coqueteó con postularse para el Congreso en 2018, presentó el lunes una declaración para una campaña congresional.

Ald. Ray Lopez is running for Congress. He’s shown here at the Chicago Board of Elections Super Site in the Loop last November, on the first day to file petitions to get on the ballot. That’s also the day Lopez dropped his bid for mayor.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th), one of the police union’s staunchest City Council supporters, on Tuesday declared his candidacy for Congress against progressive leader U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

That sets the stage for a showdown in the March primary election between opposite sides of the political spectrum within the Democratic Party.

Like Garcia, Lopez ran for mayor. Unlike Garcia, he dropped out and backed the wrong horse by endorsing Paul Vallas. Garcia finished fourth behind Brandon Johnson, Vallas and incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

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Vallas lost the mayoral runoff to Johnson after Garcia endorsed Johnson, reuniting Chicago’s fractured family of progressives.

Without Johnson’s support, Lopez faces an uphill battle in one of two Illinois districts drawn to elect a Hispanic candidate to Congress. The district includes parts of 13 Chicago wards as well as portions of 30 suburbs. They include flood-ravaged Cicero and Berwyn as well as Stickney, Lyons, Summit, Melrose Park, Franklin Park and parts of Oakbrook, La Grange, Riverside and Brookfield.

Also challenging for Lopez will be the alderman’s anemic fundraising and the fact that Garcia will run with support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has a policy of supporting incumbents.

That could help Garcia, who has his own history of lackluster fundraising. So could return-the-favor endorsements from Johnson and his political patrons, the Chicago Teachers Union and the Service Employees International Union and its affiliates.

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th), at his April 2022 announcement that he was running for mayor of Chicago.

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th), at his April 2022 announcement that he was running for mayor of Chicago. He was the first to declare he was running against incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot — and the first to drop out.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Against that backdrop, Lopez, 45, was asked why he believes he stands a chance against the 67-year-old Garcia.

He responded that Johnson’s influence “stops at the city’s border” and that the race “needs a moderate leader to match the moderate views” of 4th Congressional District voters.

“After walking the district for the past few weeks, I’ve heard directly from residents who feel as though they don’t have a voice in their current representative,” Lopez said. “They feel that the politics has gotten too extreme. That Democrats have been left out in the cold or marginalized because they’re not taking some of the more extreme positions that we’ve seen come out of the Socialist and super-progressive movements over the last few years.

“This district … encompasses the Southwest Side of Chicago, but many of the Southwest suburbs all the way into DuPage, who still believe in law enforcement. Who believe in accountability and personal responsibility. Who believe in working toward the middle to find solutions for real problems, and they haven’t seen that from their congressman,” he said.

Lopez acknowledged that raising money for a congressional race, where contributions are capped, will be difficult and that those challenges will be compounded by the “advantages afforded to incumbents.”

But he said that he is a “better fundraiser on the small-dollar level” than Garcia.

“He’s gonna rely on mega-PACs to try and save him. He relies on multimillion dollar checks to be written to cover him, but this isn’t about him. This is about the district. And no amount of money is going to protect him from his record and his wanton abandonment of his duties in the 4th District,” Lopez said.

“We need someone … to address these issues head-on. I did that when it came to addressing gang violence in the city of Chicago. When everyone else told me to leave it alone, I went full-force into it,” he said. “The migrant issue is the same thing. He’s been there six years ... and did nothing to resolve this issue or work toward compromise. Our city and soon to be, our suburbs, are about to become overwhelmed because of their lack of action.”

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia with Brandon Johnson in March after Garcia announced he was endorsing Johnson in the mayoral runoff. Garcia had finished fourth in the first round of voting on Feb. 28.

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia with Brandon Johnson in March after Garcia announced he was endorsing Johnson in the mayoral runoff. Garcia had finished fourth in the first round of voting on Feb. 28.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Manny Diaz, Garcia’s campaign manager, dismissed Lopez’ congressional bid as “nothing more than an attention-grabbing stunt, citing the “close ties” Lopez has to indicted former Ald. Ed Burke (14th), whose federal corruption trial is scheduled to begin next month.

“It’s crucial to underscore the stark contrast between our integrity and the cloud of corruption in which Lopez has chosen to operate,” Diaz stated. “The choice is clear: a proven record of integrity, dedication, and results versus a perennial candidate riding on the coattails of Ed Burke, one of the most disgraced politicians in Illinois history. Our campaign’s dedication to serving the people speaks volumes, and we won’t be distracted by political maneuvers,” Diaz was quoted as saying in a statement.

The explosion of migrants being sent to Chicago has presented a challenge to Garcia, who has worked for years to find ways for undocumented residents to find paths to legally work and stay in the United States.

It has been a delicate balancing act between helping new migrants and migrants who have been in this city for years, have family and friends who are here legally with family and friends who are voters.

That’s why, in pressuring the Biden administration to do more, Garcia has always included new and old migrants in asking for legal relief.

Lopez, who flirted with running for Congress in 2018, filed a statement of organization for a congressional campaign with the Federal Election Commission Monday. He listed as campaign treasurer Hugo Lopez, his husband of 17 years, who also helps run the Council member’s aldermanic and ward committeeperson war chests.

In a speech declaring his candidacy, Lopez cited Congress’ chronic overspending, its failure to raise the federal minimum wage since 2009, and its “refusal” to fix what he called a “flawed and broken immigration system.”

“I will work to bring common sense immigration reform, including a secured border with increased enforcement tools, efficient and timely protocols for legal migration, legalized status for Dreamers, 120-day asylum turnaround on existing merit hearings and a five-year moratorium on future asylum requests unless ordered by a vote of the United States Senate,” he said.

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