August 1, 2003
BY JUAN ANDRADE
Anybody who thinks Gery Chico can't win the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in Illinois better stop and take a long, hard, second look because this candidate is running on a winning track. Not only is Chico on the right track, his candidacy is getting plenty of traction. His message is resonating very well among voters from all walks of life who are lining up to help, and donors are generously responding to his requests for financial support.
On any given date, Chico's is practically the only visible and viable campaign out there for the U.S. Senate in Illinois.
It seems like Blair Hull has so much money he doesn't need to talk to voters, line up support, and win any endorsements. He is willing to blow $40 million of his own money to buy the election. He could save millions of dollars if he just offered $40 to 500,000 people to vote for him in the primary. If nothing else, it would help boost the economy, and people could really use the money!
If Dan Hynes decides to jump in, counting on an Illinois AFL-CIO endorsement and the party establishment to get him elected, it wouldn't be wise. Why? Because black and Latino trade unionists would most likely defect in droves to support other candidates more to their likeness and liking. White ethnic trade unionists invariably split their votes among several candidates in both major parties. And the party establishment needs to be careful not to alienate Hull, one of its strongest and most loyal benefactors.
Barack Obama just needs to get something going. If the once-powerful black community can't get excited enough about electing Bobby Rush mayor of Chicago, Obama is going to have even greater difficulty getting his base vote excited about helping elect him senator. Joyce Washington may be a problem for him, too.
Chico is clearly the most active candidate in the field, carefully and methodically lining up support and raising money. He's attracting support across ethnic and racial lines: whites, blacks, Asians and Latinos. This uncommon ability is becoming increasingly important because people want to support candidates who can work with all groups. Chico, former president of Chicago's Board of Education, is blessed with a unique blend of Wall Street intellect and street-wise savvy. He can put one arm around a corporate CEO and another arm around an unemployed laborer and carry on a conversation with both at the same time.
Chico's interest in issues of concern to whites, blacks and Asians is no greater and no less than his interest in issues of concern to Latinos. Education is a prime example, and that's one of the reasons a multiethnic, multiracial coalition of educators has endorsed Chico. His concern for the 3 million workers who have lost their jobs since George W. Bush was elected president is one of the reasons some labor groups have endorsed him. Chico's concern for low-income families is no less than his concern for overtaxed middle-income families. Both are struggling to make ends meet. His concern is no less for the working poor whose jobs don't allow time to get an education than for those who have the time but not the money needed to get a college education.
This week, Chico received a strong endorsement from BOLD PAC, made up of Congressional Hispanic Caucus members. Announcing the endorsement were Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas), the caucus chairman, and Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.). This was the PAC's first endorsement in the 2004 election cycle, and it is significant because it underscores the importance and seriousness of Chico's candidacy. This is just one of more such endorsements by elected officials from around the country and in Illinois still to come--similar to the endorsements Chico has received from business leaders, movie producers and policymakers.
Illinois has never elected a Latino to the U.S. Senate. And the U.S. Senate has been without a Latino member since 1976. Chico is on his way to changing that. His candidacy is attracting more and more people who still believe in an America in which a poor kid can grow up at 33rd and Ashland in Chicago and rise to serve in the Senate, regardless of his race or national origin. Chico will represent Illinois well and make America proud.
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