Ad Wars: Chico's most important political ad

January 11, 2011

Gery Chico's mayoral campaign debuted two new broadcast TV ads on Monday, but his most important spot may be one many Chicago's won't see or understand.

The two new spots, entitled "Model" and "Embrace", are English-language ads that will run on broadcast television outlets. The first emphasizes Chico's tenure as President of the Chicago Board of Education, while the second touts his support for small business (below).

But a spot the campaign is running on Spanish-language television may have an even greater impact on the course of the mayoral race.

That spot features U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) speaking directly to camera in Spanish and endorsing Chico's candidacy for mayor (below).

Gutierrez touts Chico's connections to the Latino community, including his partial Mexican-American ancestry, and cites him as one of the founders of Chicago's Mexican-American Chamber of Conference.

Why is this significant? Several reasons.

Despite Chico's ethnic heritage, his connections to the Latino community aren't nearly as deep as other leading local Latino politicians, including mayoral rival Miguel del Valle. Chico isn't fluent in Spanish, he didn't cut his teeth in neighborhood politics, nor did he come out of one of the powerful Latino political or community groups that's spawned many other current leaders in Chicago.

Enter Luis Gutierrez. 

For those who haven't been keeping close tabs, a recent Pew Hispanic Center survey ranked Gutierrez second only to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as the most important Latino leader in the nation. The survey also noted that Latinos are generally lacking in universally agreed upon national figures, but still.  It's a measure of Gutierrez' standing within the community, which as outlined in this recent Newsweek profile, has been remarkably enhanced by his leadership on immigration.

By winning his endorsement - and using him in a TV ad - the Chico campaign is playing on Gutierrez' popularity within the Latino community to bolster Chico's name recognition among a key Chicago constituency.  In the process, he hopes to cut into Del Valle's appeal as well.

While the number of registered Latino voters in Chicago is proportionally less than the overall population, Chico will need as many Latino votes as he can get if he hopes to be successful on February 22nd.  Del Valle knows it.  Chico knows it. And Gutierrez does too.

That's why this ad may prove to be the most important TV spot in the Chico arsenal.