Ariel Reboyras Poised To Keep Northwest Side Ward | WBEZ
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Emanuel Ally Ariel Reboyras Poised To Keep Northwest Side Ward

Updated 11:25 p.m.

Veteran Chicago Ald. Ariel E. Reboyras fended off a former congressman’s daughter Tuesday in a heated runoff election to represent a Northwest Side ward in the City Council.

The four-term incumbent had 52 percent of the 30th Ward vote with 100 percent of precincts reporting. Jessica W. Gutierrez, daughter of retired Democratic U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, had 48 percent.

At a bar next to his campaign headquarters in the city’s Avondale neighborhood, Reboyras told dozens of supporters Tuesday night that this campaign was as hard as his first aldermanic race 16 years ago.

“I walked my ward three times,” Reboyras said. “I knew every street when I was working. And I want to say to my constituents that I love you, I thank you, and I’m looking forward to continue working with you.”

The tight results were not surprising after the first round five weeks earlier, when the two finished just 27 votes apart.

Interviewed Tuesday night, Gutierrez said she would make sure Reboyras’ fifth term is “not too easy for him” and vowed to run against him next year if he tries to retain his seat as the ward’s Democratic Party committeeman.

“I’m going to be a political thorn in the side of the alderman,” Gutierrez said. “I’ve built a base of thousands that are ready to hold him accountable.”

Gutierrez, 31, branded herself as a progressive independent trying to oust an entrenched incumbent with roots in machine politics.

Reboyras, 65, has been the ward’s alderman since 2003, when he emerged from a patronage operation of Mayor Richard M. Daley. After Rahm Emanuel won the mayor’s office in 2011, Reboyras aligned with the new leader, who chose him to chair the council’s Public Safety Committee, which oversees the police and fire departments.

Reboyras remained loyal to Emanuel through a political crisis sparked by the city’s court-ordered release of a video showing teenager Laquan McDonald’s fatal shooting by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke. That crisis led to a federal court-enforced agreement to overhaul the city’s policing and likely factored into Emanuel’s decision last year to pull the plug on his own re-election bid.

During the campaign, Reboyras said his nearly four decades in city government gave him the institutional knowledge to get things done for residents of his ward, which includes parts of the Belmont Cragin, Old Irving Park and Portage Park neighborhoods. He said his loyalty to Daley and Emanuel helped the ward prosper.

By Tuesday, Reboyras’ campaign fund had reported receiving nearly $388,000 in contributions since his 2015 re-election, according to data from Reform for Illinois, a group that compiles campaign finance filings. That sum included nearly $60,000 from an Emanuel campaign fund, his largest donor.

Reboyras insisted his ties to the mayor were unrelated to his failure to win outright in the first round of voting.

“I don’t think it had anything to do with [my] association with Rahm Emanuel or anything that I’ve done to make my candidacy weak,” he said.

But Gutierrez repeatedly accused the incumbent of putting the mayor’s interests ahead of what was best for voters. She vowed to join the council's Progressive Reform Caucus and campaigned with support from her father’s congressional replacement, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Chicago, who challenged Emanuel in the 2015 mayor’s race.

Her key supporter was her father, who represented a congressional district that includes much of the ward and was known for advocating on behalf of immigrants and Puerto Ricans. The elder Gutierrez spent much of the campaign knocking on doors for his daughter.

He was also her key donor, channeling at least $111,000 from his congressional campaign fund and a PAC he controls, according to Reform for Illinois data. Altogether, Jessica Gutierrez reported raising nearly $502,000 since launching her campaign less than a year earlier — a stunning amount for a first-time aldermanic candidate.

But her father’s role also opened the door to criticism.

Last week some voters received a text message: “Jessica Gutierrez’s daddy is trying to buy this election. Tell them we aren’t for sale! Re-elect Alderman Reboyras today!” The words were followed by a link to the Reboyras’ campaign website.

Gutierrez, in a written statement, called the message “blatantly sexist" and accused Reboyras of “contempt for young women running for office.”

Reboyras denied the text message was sexist and doubled down on the claim that the former congressman was trying to purchase the seat for his daughter.

Gutierrez vowed independence from her father, who has been something of a chameleon during his 35 years in Chicago politics — sometimes aligning with progressive independents such as Garcia and former Mayor Harold Washington, other times embracing Daley and Emanuel.

In the election’s first round, Reboyras won 47.9 percent and Gutierrez won 47.5 percent, both shy of the majority that would have averted Tuesday’s runoff. A third candidate, Edgar “Edek” Esparza, won 4.6 percent. He later endorsed Gutierrez.

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