U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Ald. Raymond Lopez
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (left) is facing a challenge from within his Democratic Party from Chicago Ald. Raymond Lopez. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ; Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere / Chicago Sun-Times
U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Ald. Raymond Lopez
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (left) is facing a challenge from within his Democratic Party from Chicago Ald. Raymond Lopez. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ; Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere / Chicago Sun-Times

Even as he identifies as a “deep-blue Democrat,” Chicago Ald. Raymond Lopez appears frequently with some of the country’s most popular right-wing cable TV news hosts — who count on him to share their views and loudly criticize his fellow Democrats.

On Fox News in December with host Jesse Watters, Lopez said, “Most of the Democratic voters feel as though this party no longer represents them, that it’s been lurching too far to the left.”

But Lopez says now he’s offering voters in the 4th Illinois Congressional District a different path — to choose him over progressive U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García in next month’s Democratic primary.

The election on Chicago’s Southwest Side and suburbs will provide a major test of Lopez’s assertion that Democratic voters in the Latino-majority district think more like him than other politicians from his own party that they’ve elected.

Lopez has been reelected as alderman each term with widening margins, but his efforts to seek higher office have sputtered. He launched a campaign to get elected mayor of Chicago, but dropped out of that race long before last year’s mayoral election.

Now, his campaign to unseat García — a veteran of Chicago’s left-leaning politics who is seeking his fourth term — seems to also be faltering. Lopez’s campaign had reported raising only about $46,000 through the end of December, which probably would be too little to run for reelection to the City Council, much less mount a viable challenge for a seat in Congress.

Lopez’s biggest financial backer in past campaigns has refrained from contributing anything to his congressional run, records show.

Still, Lopez insists he is more in line with the local electorate. He has differed markedly from many in his own party by criticizing the city’s handling of the past year’s migrant influx, offering full backing of Israel’s offensive in Gaza and calling for a much tougher approach to fighting urban street crime.

“If you are smart with what you have and your passion is there, money will never be an issue,” Lopez said. “This district needs a fighter. This district needs someone who’s going to stand up and push back when everyone else is running the other direction.”

Despite more resources on hand, García said he wasn’t taking his reelection for granted and wants to build on the accomplishments from his first three terms in Washington. He defeated his Republican challengers with more than 80% of the vote his first two terms, but that dropped to 68% in 2022.

“People in the district are forward-thinking,” García said. “They want someone that is accessible, and responsive, and someone who’s a coalition builder and a unifier. And I think I’ve lived up to that criteria.”

Ald. Raymond Lopez
Ald. Raymond Lopez, 15th Ward, at his campaign headquarters at 2650 W 51st Street on Feb. 16, 2024. Tessa Weinberg / WBEZ

Edward Burke is Lopez’s new office landlord

Although Lopez points to his differences with García, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and other top Democrats, he has longstanding and deep ties to one of the party’s most powerful figures of the past half-century — the recently convicted former Ald. Edward Burke.

Even as the federal corruption case against Burke toppled him from power, the former alderman’s ties to Lopez have grown closer, records show. Lopez has moved his ward office and political operation into Burke’s old headquarters at 2650 W. 51st St.

A little more than five years ago, that same building was raided by federal agents, and Burke was charged soon after that. The city has paid $21,000 to the entity that owns the building since July, according to records.

Lopez’s campaign headquarters are in the building’s rear unit, which is listed as the address for Lopez’s political fund, the 15th Ward Democratic organization and the congressional campaign.

The landlord is none other than Burke himself. According to Cook County and state records, the building’s owner is a company whose managers are Burke and daughter Jennifer Burke.

That company gifted $1,750 in “headquarters rent” to Lopez and his ward organization, state campaign finance disclosure records show.

Lopez defended the move, saying it made financial sense after Burke decided not to run for reelection last year with his trial looming, and the building ended up in Lopez’s ward under a redrawn City Council map.

“This office was available, it’s in my ward, so why would I spend thousands of dollars on a new space when this one was already available?” Lopez said.

A defense lawyer for Burke did not return messages seeking comment on the building’s new tenant.

Raymond Lopez office
Ald. Raymond Lopez’s 15th Ward office at 2650 W 51st Street on Feb. 16, 2024. The building previously housed Ald. Edward Burke’s 14th Ward office, and the building is owned by a company whose managers are Burke and daughter Jennifer Burke. Tessa Weinberg / WBEZ

But García told WBEZ that Lopez’s move into Burke’s building “speaks volumes” about his challenger.

“What politics, what values do you hold?” García said of Lopez’s tenancy in Burke’s building. “And how are you going to lead in the future if people in Chicagoland have rejected those politics?”

Lopez also has criticized García for his own ties to politicians who have gotten into ethics scandals. In campaign ads, Lopez accuses García of being “part of the old-school machine politics that hurt us” and said the congressman was “caught in a bad bromance.”

The ads feature photos of García with indicted former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and ex-Ald. Ricardo Munoz, a longtime García ally who went to federal prison on corruption charges.

García sought to brush off Lopez’s attack, saying, “I’ve taken probably tens of thousands of pictures with all kinds of politicians over the course of my years in politics. Everyone knows that I’m the longest-running elected official in office today who has fought the machine.”

García’s fundraising far outpaces Lopez

García, 67, first became widely known in Chicago politics in the 1980s as an ally of the city’s first Black mayor, Harold Washington. Before becoming a congressman in 2019, García was a member of the Chicago City Council, an Illinois lawmaker, a Cook County commissioner and the losing candidate in the 2015 mayoral runoff.

It was the first time an incumbent mayor was forced into a runoff election, but four years later in his second mayoral bid, García failed to make it to a head-to-head race. Last year, he finished fourth, behind former Mayor Lori Lightfoot. He earned 13.7% of the vote overall but was a top choice among voters in majority-Latino precincts, with about 38% of the vote, according to a WBEZ analysis.

Lopez, 45, became 15th Ward alderman in 2015, and he’s best known as a frequent critic of former Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the incumbent, Brandon Johnson.

As his profile has risen, Lopez’s campaigns received the greatest financial support from Don Levin, a billionaire businessman from the northern suburbs.

Levin gave Lopez a total of $250,000 after Lopez announced he was running for mayor in the 2023 election. But Lopez dropped out of that race in November 2022 and ran for another term on the City Council instead.

This time, the congressional campaign reports no contributions from Levin through the end of last year. And Lopez said last week Levin has given nothing to his campaign this year either.

Levin is perhaps best known locally as the owner of the Chicago Wolves minor-league hockey team, but he made his fortune in rolling paper, which is used by people who smoke tobacco and cannabis.

At the City Council, Lopez has pushed anti-vaping legislation, targeting a threat to Levin’s business interests. But Lopez said his actions only have coincided with Levin’s interests regarding their mutual support for animal adoption.

“The only thing that brought Don Levin and I together was our love for animals,” Lopez said. “That’s the extent that he’s ever had influence in anything that we do, which is our outreach to help underserved communities with their pets.”

Levin did not return messages left at the offices of his DRL Enterprises in Glenview.

Among the relatively few supporters of Lopez’s congressional bid is former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who gave $500, according to campaign finance disclosure records.

Garcia and a supporter
U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (right) speaks with supporter Felipe Gonzalez at a campaign event at the Teamsters Union Local No. 777’s office in Lyons, Ill. on Feb. 24, 2024. Tessa Weinberg / WBEZ

Meanwhile, García raised nearly $376,000 last year, largely from attorneys and unions’ political action committees. He ended the year with a little over $200,000 on hand.

Lopez says his late entry into the race makes it unfair to compare his campaign’s finances to the incumbent’s war chest. He accused García of being an “establishment sellout” for taking campaign cash from disgraced cryptocurrency entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried, who was found guilty of defrauding investors.

In 2022, García’s congressional campaign received nearly $200,000 in campaign mailers from the former FTX CEO’s political action committee, $2,900 from Bankman-Fried — which García later returned — and $1,000 from a political action committee founded by Bankman-Fried’s brother.

The ties to Bankman-Fried hindered García’s most recent failed mayoral run last year, and he has since stepped down from serving on a House committee that regulates aspects of the digital assets industry.

Stark differences on major local, national, foreign policy issues

When García was elected five years ago to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, Lopez also put his name forward for that job, but dropped out. At the time, Lopez cited the direct impact he could make on residents’ lives as an alderman rather than a congressman. But now, he says his views have changed.

“There comes a point where you are running into a brick wall, because the problems of Washington have now become my problem here,” Lopez said.

He points to the struggle to house and care for thousands of asylum-seekers who have been brought to the Chicago area from the U.S.-Mexico border on buses and even private planes. Lopez has called for more funding and support from the Biden administration, and he led a failed effort to put Chicago’s status as a sanctuary city — which provides protections to undocumented immigrants — up for a public vote.

Lopez accuses García of focusing more on aiding the asylum-seekers at the expense of longtime undocumented residents in the district.

In Washington, García said he has emphasized the need for expedited work permits for migrants — and also for undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for decades.

Rallying two dozen union supporters in Lyons last weekend, García ticked through other legislation he supported that he said is evidence of investing in working people: the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides clean energy tax incentives; the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which funds transportation projects; the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which enhanced background checks for firearm purchases.

Both point to the need for immigration reform and want the executive branch to use its authority to cement permanent pathways to citizenship.

They disagree more sharply on the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

Lopez was one of 23 alderpersons who voted against a contentious resolution in City Council to call for a cease-fire in the ongoing war in Gaza. At the meeting last month, Lopez called the mayoral-backed initiative a “diversion … at a time when we have so much chaos in our own city.”

Signs for Lopez
Signs touting Ald. Raymond Lopez’s 4th Congressional District run hang in his ward office on Feb. 16, 2024. Tessa Weinberg / WBEZ

Lopez said he would not change his position as long as Hamas continues to hold hostages.

“There should be no cease-fire until those individuals — alive or dead — are returned to their families without any precondition, period,” Lopez said. “We need a member of Congress who’s willing to stand strong against terrorism … because if we don’t, those terrorists will come to our shores. There is a proxy war going on right now. And Israel is fighting it for us.”

Meanwhile, García has vocally supported a cease-fire. He co-sponsored a resolution calling for one last year and voted “present” rather than for or against another because the language “fails to acknowledge the overwhelming loss of Palestinian life as Israel intensifies airstrikes.”

“I have always believed that Israel has a right to exist and live in peace. By the same token, I believe that there won’t be sustainable peace in the Middle East, in Israel and Palestine, until the plight of Palestinians is addressed on a permanent basis,” García said.

Humanitarian relief is paramount, García said.

“I am concerned that if we simply provide continued funding to Israel that it may just embolden [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to continue with his ravaging of Gaza,” García said. “So I would like to see some restrictions on the use of that type of military aid. I think the greatest urgency is in providing humanitarian aid to people in Gaza and in Israel.”

Tessa Weinberg covers city government and politics for WBEZ. Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team.

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Ald. Raymond Lopez
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (left) is facing a challenge from within his Democratic Party from Chicago Ald. Raymond Lopez. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ; Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere / Chicago Sun-Times
U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Ald. Raymond Lopez
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (left) is facing a challenge from within his Democratic Party from Chicago Ald. Raymond Lopez. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ; Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere / Chicago Sun-Times

Even as he identifies as a “deep-blue Democrat,” Chicago Ald. Raymond Lopez appears frequently with some of the country’s most popular right-wing cable TV news hosts — who count on him to share their views and loudly criticize his fellow Democrats.

On Fox News in December with host Jesse Watters, Lopez said, “Most of the Democratic voters feel as though this party no longer represents them, that it’s been lurching too far to the left.”

But Lopez says now he’s offering voters in the 4th Illinois Congressional District a different path — to choose him over progressive U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García in next month’s Democratic primary.

The election on Chicago’s Southwest Side and suburbs will provide a major test of Lopez’s assertion that Democratic voters in the Latino-majority district think more like him than other politicians from his own party that they’ve elected.

Lopez has been reelected as alderman each term with widening margins, but his efforts to seek higher office have sputtered. He launched a campaign to get elected mayor of Chicago, but dropped out of that race long before last year’s mayoral election.

Now, his campaign to unseat García — a veteran of Chicago’s left-leaning politics who is seeking his fourth term — seems to also be faltering. Lopez’s campaign had reported raising only about $46,000 through the end of December, which probably would be too little to run for reelection to the City Council, much less mount a viable challenge for a seat in Congress.

Lopez’s biggest financial backer in past campaigns has refrained from contributing anything to his congressional run, records show.

Still, Lopez insists he is more in line with the local electorate. He has differed markedly from many in his own party by criticizing the city’s handling of the past year’s migrant influx, offering full backing of Israel’s offensive in Gaza and calling for a much tougher approach to fighting urban street crime.

“If you are smart with what you have and your passion is there, money will never be an issue,” Lopez said. “This district needs a fighter. This district needs someone who’s going to stand up and push back when everyone else is running the other direction.”

Despite more resources on hand, García said he wasn’t taking his reelection for granted and wants to build on the accomplishments from his first three terms in Washington. He defeated his Republican challengers with more than 80% of the vote his first two terms, but that dropped to 68% in 2022.

“People in the district are forward-thinking,” García said. “They want someone that is accessible, and responsive, and someone who’s a coalition builder and a unifier. And I think I’ve lived up to that criteria.”

Ald. Raymond Lopez
Ald. Raymond Lopez, 15th Ward, at his campaign headquarters at 2650 W 51st Street on Feb. 16, 2024. Tessa Weinberg / WBEZ

Edward Burke is Lopez’s new office landlord

Although Lopez points to his differences with García, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and other top Democrats, he has longstanding and deep ties to one of the party’s most powerful figures of the past half-century — the recently convicted former Ald. Edward Burke.

Even as the federal corruption case against Burke toppled him from power, the former alderman’s ties to Lopez have grown closer, records show. Lopez has moved his ward office and political operation into Burke’s old headquarters at 2650 W. 51st St.

A little more than five years ago, that same building was raided by federal agents, and Burke was charged soon after that. The city has paid $21,000 to the entity that owns the building since July, according to records.

Lopez’s campaign headquarters are in the building’s rear unit, which is listed as the address for Lopez’s political fund, the 15th Ward Democratic organization and the congressional campaign.

The landlord is none other than Burke himself. According to Cook County and state records, the building’s owner is a company whose managers are Burke and daughter Jennifer Burke.

That company gifted $1,750 in “headquarters rent” to Lopez and his ward organization, state campaign finance disclosure records show.

Lopez defended the move, saying it made financial sense after Burke decided not to run for reelection last year with his trial looming, and the building ended up in Lopez’s ward under a redrawn City Council map.

“This office was available, it’s in my ward, so why would I spend thousands of dollars on a new space when this one was already available?” Lopez said.

A defense lawyer for Burke did not return messages seeking comment on the building’s new tenant.

Raymond Lopez office
Ald. Raymond Lopez’s 15th Ward office at 2650 W 51st Street on Feb. 16, 2024. The building previously housed Ald. Edward Burke’s 14th Ward office, and the building is owned by a company whose managers are Burke and daughter Jennifer Burke. Tessa Weinberg / WBEZ

But García told WBEZ that Lopez’s move into Burke’s building “speaks volumes” about his challenger.

“What politics, what values do you hold?” García said of Lopez’s tenancy in Burke’s building. “And how are you going to lead in the future if people in Chicagoland have rejected those politics?”

Lopez also has criticized García for his own ties to politicians who have gotten into ethics scandals. In campaign ads, Lopez accuses García of being “part of the old-school machine politics that hurt us” and said the congressman was “caught in a bad bromance.”

The ads feature photos of García with indicted former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and ex-Ald. Ricardo Munoz, a longtime García ally who went to federal prison on corruption charges.

García sought to brush off Lopez’s attack, saying, “I’ve taken probably tens of thousands of pictures with all kinds of politicians over the course of my years in politics. Everyone knows that I’m the longest-running elected official in office today who has fought the machine.”

García’s fundraising far outpaces Lopez

García, 67, first became widely known in Chicago politics in the 1980s as an ally of the city’s first Black mayor, Harold Washington. Before becoming a congressman in 2019, García was a member of the Chicago City Council, an Illinois lawmaker, a Cook County commissioner and the losing candidate in the 2015 mayoral runoff.

It was the first time an incumbent mayor was forced into a runoff election, but four years later in his second mayoral bid, García failed to make it to a head-to-head race. Last year, he finished fourth, behind former Mayor Lori Lightfoot. He earned 13.7% of the vote overall but was a top choice among voters in majority-Latino precincts, with about 38% of the vote, according to a WBEZ analysis.

Lopez, 45, became 15th Ward alderman in 2015, and he’s best known as a frequent critic of former Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the incumbent, Brandon Johnson.

As his profile has risen, Lopez’s campaigns received the greatest financial support from Don Levin, a billionaire businessman from the northern suburbs.

Levin gave Lopez a total of $250,000 after Lopez announced he was running for mayor in the 2023 election. But Lopez dropped out of that race in November 2022 and ran for another term on the City Council instead.

This time, the congressional campaign reports no contributions from Levin through the end of last year. And Lopez said last week Levin has given nothing to his campaign this year either.

Levin is perhaps best known locally as the owner of the Chicago Wolves minor-league hockey team, but he made his fortune in rolling paper, which is used by people who smoke tobacco and cannabis.

At the City Council, Lopez has pushed anti-vaping legislation, targeting a threat to Levin’s business interests. But Lopez said his actions only have coincided with Levin’s interests regarding their mutual support for animal adoption.

“The only thing that brought Don Levin and I together was our love for animals,” Lopez said. “That’s the extent that he’s ever had influence in anything that we do, which is our outreach to help underserved communities with their pets.”

Levin did not return messages left at the offices of his DRL Enterprises in Glenview.

Among the relatively few supporters of Lopez’s congressional bid is former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who gave $500, according to campaign finance disclosure records.

Garcia and a supporter
U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (right) speaks with supporter Felipe Gonzalez at a campaign event at the Teamsters Union Local No. 777’s office in Lyons, Ill. on Feb. 24, 2024. Tessa Weinberg / WBEZ

Meanwhile, García raised nearly $376,000 last year, largely from attorneys and unions’ political action committees. He ended the year with a little over $200,000 on hand.

Lopez says his late entry into the race makes it unfair to compare his campaign’s finances to the incumbent’s war chest. He accused García of being an “establishment sellout” for taking campaign cash from disgraced cryptocurrency entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried, who was found guilty of defrauding investors.

In 2022, García’s congressional campaign received nearly $200,000 in campaign mailers from the former FTX CEO’s political action committee, $2,900 from Bankman-Fried — which García later returned — and $1,000 from a political action committee founded by Bankman-Fried’s brother.

The ties to Bankman-Fried hindered García’s most recent failed mayoral run last year, and he has since stepped down from serving on a House committee that regulates aspects of the digital assets industry.

Stark differences on major local, national, foreign policy issues

When García was elected five years ago to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, Lopez also put his name forward for that job, but dropped out. At the time, Lopez cited the direct impact he could make on residents’ lives as an alderman rather than a congressman. But now, he says his views have changed.

“There comes a point where you are running into a brick wall, because the problems of Washington have now become my problem here,” Lopez said.

He points to the struggle to house and care for thousands of asylum-seekers who have been brought to the Chicago area from the U.S.-Mexico border on buses and even private planes. Lopez has called for more funding and support from the Biden administration, and he led a failed effort to put Chicago’s status as a sanctuary city — which provides protections to undocumented immigrants — up for a public vote.

Lopez accuses García of focusing more on aiding the asylum-seekers at the expense of longtime undocumented residents in the district.

In Washington, García said he has emphasized the need for expedited work permits for migrants — and also for undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for decades.

Rallying two dozen union supporters in Lyons last weekend, García ticked through other legislation he supported that he said is evidence of investing in working people: the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides clean energy tax incentives; the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which funds transportation projects; the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which enhanced background checks for firearm purchases.

Both point to the need for immigration reform and want the executive branch to use its authority to cement permanent pathways to citizenship.

They disagree more sharply on the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

Lopez was one of 23 alderpersons who voted against a contentious resolution in City Council to call for a cease-fire in the ongoing war in Gaza. At the meeting last month, Lopez called the mayoral-backed initiative a “diversion … at a time when we have so much chaos in our own city.”

Signs for Lopez
Signs touting Ald. Raymond Lopez’s 4th Congressional District run hang in his ward office on Feb. 16, 2024. Tessa Weinberg / WBEZ

Lopez said he would not change his position as long as Hamas continues to hold hostages.

“There should be no cease-fire until those individuals — alive or dead — are returned to their families without any precondition, period,” Lopez said. “We need a member of Congress who’s willing to stand strong against terrorism … because if we don’t, those terrorists will come to our shores. There is a proxy war going on right now. And Israel is fighting it for us.”

Meanwhile, García has vocally supported a cease-fire. He co-sponsored a resolution calling for one last year and voted “present” rather than for or against another because the language “fails to acknowledge the overwhelming loss of Palestinian life as Israel intensifies airstrikes.”

“I have always believed that Israel has a right to exist and live in peace. By the same token, I believe that there won’t be sustainable peace in the Middle East, in Israel and Palestine, until the plight of Palestinians is addressed on a permanent basis,” García said.

Humanitarian relief is paramount, García said.

“I am concerned that if we simply provide continued funding to Israel that it may just embolden [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to continue with his ravaging of Gaza,” García said. “So I would like to see some restrictions on the use of that type of military aid. I think the greatest urgency is in providing humanitarian aid to people in Gaza and in Israel.”

Tessa Weinberg covers city government and politics for WBEZ. Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team.