Could Chicago elect its first Latino mayor?
Now that Mayor Daley has announced his retirement the line of candidates interested in running for his job grows by the day.
Several Latino candidates are possible and the first one to officially declare this week was Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle.
Del Valle, 59, served as an Illinois state senator for 20 years. He was appointed by Mayor Daley as city clerk in December 2006 and then won election in February 2007.
But there are other possible Latino candidates. Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez, 57, could throw his hat in the race. Gutierrez, congressman since 1992 and former alderman, considered a run for mayor in 2007 but decided against it at that time.
Another possible candidate could be former alderman Manny Flores, 38, who now is the chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission. Flores started his career in politics as an aide to Congressman Gutierrez.
The list is sure to grow.
Latinos comprise about 15 percent of the city’s 1.5 million registered voters. But they are more than one-quarter of the city’s population.
Promoting Latino voter registration is key to any Latino candidate.
But just winning the Latino vote won’t be enough. If there are several Latino candidates, they could divide the Latino vote.
I don’t think that should deter more than one Latino candidate from running but it’s something to consider.
Some African-American politicians have spoken about the need for Chicago to elect another African-American mayor. Harold Washington was elected in 1983 and served until he passed away in 1987.
Latinos were key allies in electing Washington back then. Both del Valle and Gutierrez worked in the Washington administration.
The demographics of the city are shifting. From 2000 to 2008 the African-American population in the city has dropped by 10 percent.
Latinos are now almost 28 percent of the city population and African-Americans are 35 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Considering together they amount to 63 percent of the population it seems plausible the next mayor of Chicago could be Latino or African-American.
Certainly one’s race or ethnicity shouldn’t be a criteria for election. Chicago needs a mayor who can govern fairly and especially tackle the budget.
But it’d be naive to think that race and ethnicity won’t factor into the mayoral race.
This is Chicago and it will certainly be fascinating in the next two months to see who comes forward to run and how they do or don’t build alliances.