Chicago Mayoral Hopefuls March In Mexican Independence Parade

22nd Ward Ald. Ricardo Munoz, far left, walked the parade alongside Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Claudia Morell / WBEZ
22nd Ward Ald. Ricardo Munoz, far left, walked the parade alongside Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Claudia Morell / WBEZ

Chicago Mayoral Hopefuls March In Mexican Independence Parade

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Updated: 12:11 p.m. on Sept. 10

A parade of possible mayoral candidates marched through the heart of Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood on the Southwest Side Sunday.

The occasion was the annual 26th Street Mexican Independence Parade, celebrating Mexico’s independence from Spain. It’s also one of the largest gatherings of Mexican-American voters, not only in Chicago, but around the state.

While the early morning breakfast kickoff at Mi Tierra, a local restaurant, was a who’s who of Illinois politics, the race for Chicago mayor was front and center. The crowded field of candidates for the 2019 municipal elections got a lot more chaotic last week when current Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the frontrunner with $10 million in his campaign coffers, announced he would not run for a third term

Ald. Danny Solis (25th) of neighboring Pilsen said the political overtones are especially heightened in an election year. “We have a lot of factors that have happened,” Solis added, referring to the governor’s race in November and the open Chicago mayoral race. “And they [mayoral candidates] are here because they know Mexicans are probably the single largest ethnic group in the city of Chicago, and it’s continuing to grow,” Solis said.

He added that Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s 2015 mayoral race, which forced a historic runoff between Garcia and incumbent Emanuel, showed the rest of the city that this is an influential voting block that can’t be ignored. “This is an electorate that has to be looked out for and has to be courted.”

For the 2019 mayoral race, the field of candidates so far has not included a Latino candidate, though the city is about a third Latino. But several have put their names out since  Emanuel announced he would not run again.

Among them: Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza (who told reporters not to ask her about running for mayor until after the November election, as she’s seeking re-election as comptroller), outgoing Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez, and 22nd Ward Ald. Ricardo Munoz, who represents the neighborhood where the parade takes place.

Munoz announced his retirement earlier this year, and earlier this week wasn’t ruling out a run for mayor.  But on Sunday, Munoz walked the parade alongside Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who is telling supporters she’s planning to launch an “exploratory committee” for mayor on Monday.

Preckwinkle was also spotted talking with powerful Ald.Ed Burke (14th) at the breakfast before the parade. Preckwinkle would only comment on her upcoming re-election to the Cook County Board.

In addition to all the buzz around the mayor’s race, the November election for Illinois governor looms. Both incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic Challenger J.B. Pritzker were there.

Rauner spoke about the importance of the Mexican American community in Illinois.

“We are very proud in Illinois, we have one of the largest, most vibrant Mexican-American communities anywhere in the world. We are very proud here,” said Rauner, who has attended the parade every year since he’s been governor.

The Republican governor made clear his position on immigrant communities is not in line with that of President Donald Trump. “We are a welcoming state built by immigrants, we welcome immigrants from around the world.”

But for all the parading and politicking,  there was little evidence that politicians used the occasion to have supporters circulate petitions to get them on the ballot. In Chicago, candidates for mayor must have 12,500 valid signatures from city residents to get a ballet spot.

Claudia Morell and Becky Vevea cover city politics for WBEZ. Follow them at @claudiamorell and @beckyvevea.

Correction: A caption for a photograph incorrectly said Ald. Ricardo Munoz could be seen marching in the center when in fact he was located to the far left.