He can't put March out of his mind. Jesus Garcia is as easygoing as ever, still quick with a joke, still walking his district in cowboy boots and a made-in-Mexico belt that shouts JESUS G from hip to hip. But six months after the primary he keeps turning over the same question. How did a popular state senator like himself, someone who's worked years in the neighborhoods, lose to a no-name opponent with no legislative or community experience?
"I was thinking about this last night," says Garcia, as he steers his conversion van south on Pulaski through his First District. "I was invited by Harold Washington's brother to speak at the City Council tribute that they did last year commemorating his death. I had to struggle with what I was going to say because, you know, it's a city of Chicago event, it's in the City Council, but it's about Harold. So it's like--aarrghh. Where's the line between being true to the legacy and the real Harold, the fighting Harold, versus protocol and being proper? Because you don't want to go there and insult and be personal.
"I thought I was pretty gracious. I said some things, but they weren't personal, everybody kind of took 'em well. The mayor was laughing his ass off. The stuff was in there, but it was covered with some humor and goodwill, in spite of the fact that we might be mortal enemies in the political realm. So I was remembering that last night and I'm like, 'Was that it? Damn, did that set them off?'"
Garcia sort of chuckles. He never seems to lose his sense of humor, even when he's 100 percent serious. Now he's parking his van in a tight space between two cars in a restaurant's otherwise empty lot. He admits that his campaign made some big mistakes in the primary--he was convinced that he'd win, for one--but he's clear about the biggest factor in his defeat. "There is a machine in this town," he says emphatically. "It's a new type of machine, and the mayor is the chairman. And it's very different in some respects but it still does what the old machine was capable of doing, and I think this was a good example."
In his concession speech Garcia didn't mention his opponent. "I want to congratulate Mayor Daley for beating me electorally," said Garcia that night. Latino leaders loyal to Daley and an army of Latino patronage workers--organized by the little-known Hispanic Democratic Organization--had joined forces with white party bosses to bring out the vote for Antonio "Tony" Munoz, a Chicago cop from McKinley Park that hardly anyone in the First District had heard of.
For Daley and his Latino allies it was perhaps the biggest, sweetest victory since Daley's first win. "I'm sure they're hailing the end of the independent progressive movement," says Larry Gonzalez, Garcia's press secretary.
"It was a heartbreaking election for independents," says a Garcia supporter who the Sunday before the election was chanting "Chuy, Chuy!" at a rally at Teamster City, west of the Loop. Far from any worries about losing that day, there were calls for Garcia to run for mayor in '99.
"Chuy was absolutely the target of a machine attack," says Alton Miller, Harold Washington's press secretary and biographer. "They targeted him--they wanted to take him out. Chuy is about neighborhoods and he's about people, and he's therefore a threat. Anytime anybody raises his head a little bit higher, the Daley folk want to knock it down. He was and is a real threat to their long-term aims, because he's a good person and he's a person who's going to be out there blowing the whistle and keeping people mindful of what the real priorities are. So if they can cripple him or shut him up or put him out of the picture of course they're going to."
The combination of forces that the machine put together for the primary does not bode well for other Latino progressives, in particular 22nd Ward alderman Ricardo Munoz, a Garcia protege who faces reelection in February; Garcia-mentored representative Sonia Silva, who won her primary by just 55 votes and faces a Republican challenger with Democratic machine ties in November; and Congressman Luis Gutierrez. Then there's the question of whether Chicago progressives have lost for good one of their most charismatic leaders. Miller doesn't think so. "I really think that Garcia is in the classic position of somebody who is down but not out," he says. "He's in the classic comeback position. It's almost a story made in heaven. If I were him Daley would never know a peaceful day. On any issue that comes up, if I were Chuy I'd be on him like a bad coat."
On March 17 it rained from before dawn til after dusk. Yet the streets of the southwest side's First District had the air of a fiesta. So many precinct workers were out that in spots they stretched from one polling place to another, like a long parade snaking through the district, which reaches from Pilsen to Little Village, Back of the Yards, McKinley Park, and Brighton Park, and into Cicero.
The regular Democrats were backing Munoz and three other Latino candidates here. Cook County commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno, slated for state central committeeman from Gutierrez's Fourth Congressional District, was running against incumbent Miguel del Valle, the progressive Puerto Rican state senator from the Second District who's the only Latino besides Garcia in the senate. Susana Mendoza, the 26-year-old press secretary of 12th Ward alderman Ray Frias, was put up to challenge Silva on the west end of Garcia's district. And on the east end, state rep Edward Acevedo, a Chicago cop, was running for reelection against Garcia-backed Guillermo Gomez. Silva's the only independent the machine didn't beat. "They had a good day," says Garcia. "This was probably the most effective mobilization of the city-county patronage army in a long time. I don't think I've seen it like this in my 14 years in elected office."
For weeks Munoz signs dominated the district. They'd been stapled to abandoned buildings, stuffed between windows and burglar bars, displayed in home after home and in businesses along the commercial strips. On election day they were everywhere.
"When we got there about 6:30 AM, the whole street was plastered with Munoz, Mendoza, and Moreno signs," says Carmen Velasquez, a first-time poll watcher working for Garcia and Silva. "And when I say plastered I mean poles, trees, private fences, everything. And you had a bunch of their guys out there--all over."
Velasquez guesses there were twice as many Munoz campaign workers as Garcia workers at her 12th Ward polling place in Brighton Park. She says she saw Munoz workers passing out palm cards inside the polling place, election judges talking openly as they handed out ballots about Munoz's victory party, and problems with the count at the end of the night. Posting a sign for Garcia, Velasquez's husband was harassed by someone who pulled out a badge and identified himself as a city building inspector.
"When you're standing out there all day you make friends with people, even though they're on the other side," says Velasquez. "You don't make friends, but you talk. And they put a Hispanic guy there. He used to work for Moreno. He told me, 'Man, I don't know what I'm doing here. It's freezing out here and raining. You know, they won't even give me nothin'. They won't let me go in.'
"And I told him, 'What are you doing it for? What are you out here for? Do you really believe in Moreno?'
"And he says, 'No. I worked for him last time, and I'm gonna give it one more time, one more chance.'
"And I'm like, 'What are you talking about?'
"He says, 'He promised me a job.' So even the people they had out there were there because they were gettin' paid. They were promised something. He even told me, 'Hey, if nothing works out do you think Sonia would mind me goin' to work for her? Me helpin' her out and volunteering?'"
Velasquez, the mother of a second-grader, says that she got involved with the Garcia-Silva campaign because she admired Silva's work on school issues, such as bilingual education. While she worked the 12th Ward, the phone rang at Abelardo Flores's house in Little Village. Flores, a construction worker, had been looking for a better job and had filled out an application with the city for a position as a laborer. His wife took the call. "They told me, 'Tell Abelardo Flores not to vote for Senator Jesus Garcia, because Jesus Garcia is not going to get him a job,'" she remembers. The caller went on to tell her that Garcia had destroyed a number of applications, erased them from the computer, and that he didn't like Mexicans. (He was born in Mexico.) "They didn't tell me where they were calling from or who they were," says Flores's wife, but she says they knew about her husband's application for work.
In the remaining wards in the district it was more of the same. "I was an area coordinator in the 11th Ward and the 12th Ward, which is the heart of enemy territory for us," says Larry Gonzalez. Garcia won with 60 percent of the vote in 1996 and 52 percent in a three-way race in 1992; his strongest support has always come from Pilsen and Little Village, particularly the 22nd Ward, where he was alderman from 1984 to 1992. Wards like the 11th--where a brother of the mayor is committeeman--have given him his biggest problems. "John Daley's precinct organization--they were ten deep," says Gonzalez. "They wore hats that said 'Mayor Daley's Team '98.'"
"It's just like the black community 30 years ago," says Richard Barnett, a North Lawndale resident who's been involved in independent politics for the last 44 years. "Take the 29th Ward. We had three precincts that we called 'the Island.' And in the Island it was very racist. I don't care how great our independent Democratic candidate was who we had running for alderman or state rep or state senator, we would never get more than 25 votes out of the Island. Each precinct would come in like 450 to 20, 502 to 9. And it wasn't that they liked the other candidate that much, but the white captains just told them--like in '79 [Danny] Davis ran against Le Roy Cross--and they had a joke, 'Hey, we're votin' for Le Roy!' Because it didn't make them any difference since both were black, so they were voting for the black that was their puppet. And that's what they're doing in the Hispanic community now."
In Pilsen, Munoz campaign workers wore yellow city-issued raincoats and warmed themselves beside portable Streets and Sanitation heaters. Meanwhile, light blue Streets and San trucks drove slowly down streets--not alleys--with loads of brand-new garbage cans. If it hadn't been for the rain, voters in the 25th Ward's 23rd precinct might have had to step over city workers laying new sidewalks outside the polling place.
City services played a critical role throughout Munoz's campaign. When Velasquez noticed that some relatives who lived in the 11th Ward had a Munoz sign in the window, she paid them a visit. "They don't even get into this political stuff," says Velasquez, "but [my husband's] cousin says, 'You know, I need that damn garage knocked down, and this guy came over--he lives three houses down--and he says if I put up the sign he'll get my garage knocked down.'"
Velasquez told the cousin that city services should have nothing to do with politics. She offered to get her cousin a form to start the demolition process. The relatives replaced their Munoz and Mendoza signs with Garcia and Silva signs.
Later Velasquez's cousin called her, upset. "She says, 'He says that if I don't take it down I ain't never gonna get my garage down.' And he kept calling her and calling her." In the end the cousin decided to take down the Garcia sign and leave up Silva's.
A neighbor of Velasquez's also took down his Garcia sign. She says the neighbor told her, "The other guys were coming and bothering my wife and saying they were gonna call the city inspectors out and that she had violations. I don't want no trouble. I'll vote, but I just don't want to put a sign up."
"And that's what we used to hear when we used to walk," says Velasquez. "They'd say, 'We're voting for Chuy, but I'm not putting that sign up because you get a bunch of people coming here telling us we're gonna do this, this, and that.' For being a first, I got a bad lesson in life as far as elections. I never knew how much fraud they did and how dirty they played."
The regulars even reached people they probably shouldn't have. "One of our precinct captains in the 22nd Ward got a call from somebody from their campaign office," says Gonzalez. "It said 'Citizens for Munoz' on his caller ID, and they were asking him if he was in need of any city services--meaning, do you need a garbage can, do you need any lights fixed, do you need your streets cleaned, whatever. When [the precinct captain] called them back to bitch at them they were like, 'Oh, no, no. We're calling for Citizens for Munoz.'
"He says, 'Well, if you're calling for political reasons why are you offering me city services?'
"'Oh, no, no, sir, we made a mistake.'
"I've heard so many stories," says Gonzalez. "People saying, 'Oh yeah, they came, three or four guys came to my door and they offered, oh, we'll cut your tree down or we'll do this, but you've gotta vote for Munoz and Mendoza and Moreno.'"
The strategy paid off. "Probably the thing they did most successfully is to make this race into an aldermanic race and make me the ineffective incumbent alderman," says Garcia. "'When was the last time he did something for you? When was the last time he chased those gangbangers off the corner? When was the last time that he turned a light on for you? How come your street is dirty?'
"The irony of this is that in some of these cases it was those machine aldermen who were responsible for the lack of services." Every alderman in Garcia's district is a strong Daley ally, with the exception of Rick Munoz in the 22nd. In fact, in an analysis of aldermen's voting records from July 1996 to July 1997, Illinois Politics concluded that then 11th Ward alderman Patrick Huels, 14th Ward alderman Ed Burke, and 25th Ward alderman Danny Solis all had 100 percent pro-Daley voting records on the 23 key votes it analyzed, and 12th Ward alderman Ray Frias was 96 percent pro-Daley. "Instead of them being blamed, I got blamed," says Garcia. "And I think part of that [was because of] the fact that I used to be in the City Council and I was an alderman. 'So why isn't this guy who's an alderman--the senator--taking care of this business for you? When was the last time you saw him?'
"'Well, you see him on TV.'
"'But when was he here?'
"In other words, you have an alderman who don't deliver for you, and his name is Senator Garcia.
"We thought we were beyond that," says Garcia. "We thought people know what an alderman is and responsibilities, people know that we're lawmakers, and damn it, people should know. At least Latinos should be aware that we're out there fighting on all sorts of issues, because we're on TV so much and radio and the newspaper. If there's a good fight out there we're probably in the thick of it and on the community's side."
Jesus Garcia was born in Durango, Mexico, in 1956. He arrived in Chicago at age ten, attended grammar school in Pilsen, and later moved with his family to neighboring Little Village. Already active in neighborhood issues in high school, he sharpened his organizing skills at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he studied political science and proved a constant thorn in the side of administrators, helping form a Latino student union and organizing students to push for a cultural center, increased Latino enrollment, and university support services for Latino neighborhoods.
Garcia came of age at a time when Chicago's politically somnolent Latinos and blacks were being jolted awake. All over the city in the late 70s and early 80s they were forming antimachine electoral organizations to protest conditions in their neighborhoods and their lack of political representation. Garcia and other progressive Latinos--foremost among them community activist and labor organizer Rudy Lozano--built the 22nd Ward Independent Precinct Organization, the most effective IPO in the city.
The group began forging alliances with progressive African-Americans on the west side. "We decided that the west side was 90 percent black and Latin, and both of us combined didn't have 1 percent of the power," says Richard Barnett, who got to know Garcia around that time. The new black-Latino coalition slated candidates for the 1982 state legislative races--"Latinos made sure their people turned out for the black candidate, and blacks made sure their people turned out for the Latino," says Barnett--and the next year a black-Latino coalition was instrumental in electing Harold Washington mayor.
While Washington challenged Mayor Jane Byrne and Richard M. Daley in the 1983 Democratic primary, Lozano ran for alderman of the 22nd Ward against the machine's Frank Stemberk, who had held the seat for years but had been accused by the Sun-Times of moving to the western suburbs--to which most white ethnics from the ward had fled. Garcia was Lozano's campaign manager. Lozano missed forcing a runoff by 17 votes in the February primary, and that June he was shot to death in his kitchen, a murder his supporters still insist was politically motivated. Daley was the state's attorney at the time; a young gangbanger was convicted of the murder but Daley's office didn't establish a motive, a point that has never been forgotten by Latino progressives. Thousands of people marched in the streets of Pilsen and Little Village when Lozano died; 15 priests concelebrated his funeral mass.
The gun that killed Lozano launched the 27-year-old Garcia's political career, something he wasn't necessarily looking for. "It wasn't Garcia's decision to run," says Ronelle Mustin, who's been involved with the 22nd Ward IPO from the beginning. "It was a decision on the part of the organization that he should be our candidate. We had more of a collective approach to things."
Garcia beat Stemberk the following year for 22nd Ward committeeman--a position he still holds--and two years later won the alderman's seat, beating Latino candidates Stemberk put up. Garcia became the ranking Latino in Harold Washington's City Council coalition.
At 42 Garcia already has a certain legendary aura, maybe because he was chosen to follow in the footsteps of a martyred community leader, or maybe because he played a role in the Chicago progressive movement's biggest victory--the election of Harold Washington--or maybe because he was the first independent Latino committeeman and first Mexican-American senator.
"He's the most admired Mexican-American candidate in the entire state," says Cook County clerk David Orr, who was a City Council ally under Washington. "He's been a good organizer, he's never been a guy with a big ego, he's always willing to help other people. . . . In my mind he's really one of the most outstanding elected officials in the state."
But it's hard to distinguish Garcia's enemies from his friends when it comes to what they think of him. "I love Chuy," says a longtime precinct captain who has worked against Garcia every time the regular Democrats have put up a candidate. "Chuy has charisma, he's a true politician. Chuy has that knack. The people were happy to have a Mexican-American like him get elected, because he was the person, he had that charisma, he had that knowledge of the people and to work for the people of his community."
So what happened? Garcia lost the election by 960 votes out of nearly 13,000 cast. His 1992 share of the vote had increased almost everywhere in 1996, but in March it dropped by an average of 15 percentage points per ward. The heavily Latino areas were no exception. Garcia got 77 percent of the vote in the 22nd Ward, or Little Village, in 1996, and only 61 percent of it this year. In the 25th Ward, Pilsen, he got less than half the vote.
"We took our eye off of the formula that's enabled us to get elected against great odds, to get reelected, and then to expand," says Garcia, "and that was framing the election as a fight between the neighborhood versus power brokers who want control--the machine. That's how we first get elected, that's how we get reelected, and this last time that wasn't the message that we had out there. As a matter of fact, the message was pretty vague."
Garcia spent a lot of his time stumping for the two state rep candidates. "There wasn't really a campaign focusing on my reelection," he admits. He saw the primary as a chance to gain ground--if Guillermo Gomez could pick up the state rep seat held by Edward Acevedo. "We had a group focusing on Gomez and then there was another group focusing on Sonia. And somehow we were like, 'Is Chuy's picture in there? OK, we're fine.' Trusting my history and my involvement and commitment would be, I guess, self-evident to people. Too much good faith. You know, we work our ass off, we're out there, there are no issues that we duck for better or for worse, and we think that means something. Well, not necessarily, not automatically. That's the conclusion. But we paid a price, took a hit. We paid a heavy, heavy price."
Garcia would show up at community meetings--before the election Pilsen was in the midst of an organizing drive to defeat a proposed commercial-industrial TIF--take a seat near the back, and simply listen. There were few speeches, few pitches, no "punch 33."
"I got a problem with that," says Garcia. "You know, you try to have some ethics, because if not, if you're always on the stump, if you're always out there to get something, I think it causes cynicism, and there's too much cynicism in politics. I just can't succumb to the conventional thinking that it's dirty and you gotta be dirty, that politics is corrupt and good people should not get into politics. Politics should be about struggle, about fights for ideas and ideals."
But while Garcia was debating immigration and welfare reform, gentrification and neighborhood development, the Daley Democrats were passing out city services and counting votes. "People don't think of it in the terms of the way we do," says Gonzalez. "We see things politically. People just say, 'Hey, these guys came and they gave me something.'
"People are lazy when they go to vote, let's face it. We can send out literature and say, hey, we've been here, we've done this, that, and the other thing. But then all of a sudden the services are coming and people are saying, 'You know what? Yeah, there is a lot of crime.' But come on. Are you gonna tell me that just because Eddie Acevedo and Tony Munoz are cops that four years from now crime is gonna be eliminated from the streets of Pilsen? I don't think so. But people buy it."
Garcia blames his defeat on the white-ethnic vote against him, primarily in the 11th and 14th wards. Garcia got beat by 994 votes in the 11th Ward, where John Daley is committeeman, and by 494 in the 14th, where Alderman Edward Burke is committeeman. Two years ago Garcia lost the 11th Ward by 330 votes and the 14th Ward by exactly one. "It was the white voters of the 11th and 14th wards that decided that race--it wasn't the Latino community," says Gonzalez. "And that was our fault. I mean, let's face it--our people didn't come out, and that means we didn't get them out. So we can sit and cry all we want but that's the bottom line. They got their voters to the polling place and we didn't."
"Instead of continuing to build ourselves as an important piece of the electorate, we abrogated that role to other voters," says Garcia. "It's sort of a low in our effort to make Latinos more politically significant. . . . Our voters were asleep on election day, and that's why we lost. If we had felt threatened, and if we would have communicated that to our volunteers and to our voters, we would have had higher turnout." The Garcia vote diminished in every ward but the 25th--which he narrowly lost--though the total vote increased almost 12 percent from 1996.
"This is the conversation that I've had with people. 'Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know.' Or, 'Oh, you know, we're sorry we didn't go out to vote--we didn't see how you could lose. You always won.' And that was the problem--I always win. That's why we lost, because I always win.
"The only guy who's made any sense to me explaining how this happened is my father. He's very quiet, he never says anything, especially about politics--he just minds his own business. He went down to the grocery store on the corner and a lady came up to him, 'Ay, Se–or Garcia! It's not true, is it? It's impossible that Chuy could have lost, isn't it?' And my father looks at her, he goes, 'No, it's not impossible. He lost because he had to lose.'"
Garcia cracks up. "And I said, damn, that makes a lot of sense, you know! And that's the only thing that's made sense to me. He lost because he had to lose. I guess sometimes it's just that simple. Now I can cut my conversations short, you know? He lost because he had to lose."
It's hard to fault Garcia for being overconfident. The regulars looked desperate. In 1996 they'd slated Juan Soliz, who'd been Pilsen's first Latino alderman and would run strongly in the 25th Ward. But who'd ever heard of Tony Munoz? He had no legislative experience. He didn't speak Spanish--the language of most of his campaign literature. His brush with fame--or infamy--came six weeks before the election, when he, 25th Ward alderman Danny Solis, and Representative Acevedo sent out "certificates of recognition" to honor roll students in Pilsen schools. The certificates had on them the words "Tony Munoz for State Senator," the alderman's name, and the state seal. They also displayed the mayor's name, apparently without his permission. The politicking was criticized by the mayor's office and schools chief Paul Vallas, and Munoz made the front page of the Tribune. He blamed the idea on a campaign volunteer.
Even the Tribune, while blistering Garcia for opposing the proposed Pilsen TIF and southward expansion of UIC, went on to endorse him. "Ald. Danny Solis . . . has assembled a roster of candidates who oppose Garcia and Garcia's allies in the Democratic primary. Unfortunately, Solis, in his first attempt at ticket-making, has not adequately prepared his candidates to do battle," the editorial asserted.
Antonio Munoz spent the first years of his life in Pilsen and later moved with his family to Little Village. After a stint in the army he put in eight years in city government, first with the License and Liquor Control Commission and then in the corporation counsel's office. For the last two years he's been a Chicago police officer.
His new profession was one thing Munoz did have going for him. He and Acevedo--also a cop--ran on an anticrime platform. With gang and drug activity realities of life in most neighborhoods of the First District, they had an issue that was bound to hit home with voters. Another benefit was his name. Thanks to Ricardo Munoz, the 22nd Ward alderman and Garcia ally who's mentioned often by the Spanish-language news media, Munoz got some free name recognition. Bold letters over the entrance to Garcia's office in the district read "GARCIA, MUNOZ, SILVA."
After he won the nomination, reporters asked Tony Munoz what he planned to do in the senate. (He's unopposed in November.) He said he'd make sure residents got their city services. He sounded more like a new ward super than someone running for the General Assembly.
Jorge Luis Mota, a Cuban reporter for Exito!, was at Munoz's election-night party. "No one from the media was there," says Mota. Back at Exito! headlines announcing Garcia's victory had already been laid out. "[The photographer] was like, 'Oye, man, I think we're in the wrong place,'" says Mota.
Around 11 PM Munoz came in, obviously in shock. "He looked like a zombie," says Mota. "Have you seen a zombie? Well, I saw a zombie for the first time. I was like, 'Look at that guy.' He was white, white like an egg. He was very pale. So Tony comes in, very white like a paper, saying, 'I won, I won, I won!' And the people then realized that the guy really won."
Munoz says he decided to run last September. "I reached out to some of the elected officials in the district and they all said they would support me." He says Garcia wasn't doing anything for most people in the district. "We had a state senator who in the past three years wasn't passing any crime legislation nor anything on education bills. You had a state senator who only catered to a small portion of the legislative district, which was primarily the 22nd Ward.
"Businesspeople, you know, they hadn't seen him in quite a while. They didn't know what was going on with the different organizations--TIF or not TIF, he hadn't been around for them. And then a lot of the constituents in the entire district were saying that he hadn't been around, he hadn't done anything for them. So that was kind of one of the deciding factors as well."
Is passing laws in Springfield a legitimate reason not to be in the district? "Well, he hasn't been passin' laws over here--that's all I can tell ya," says Munoz. "Nothin' on crime, education, or trying to do something for jobs. I don't know what he was doing down in Springfield. I pulled his record--he missed over 200 times in Springfield."
Two hundred votes?
"No, he missed--he wasn't there--200 times."
Two hundred days?
That'd be the whole year.
"Um, not the whole year. We've got a record that we pulled. Two hundred times."
Munoz must be talking about votes, whether he knows it or not, but it's not clear where he came up with the number 200. Senate records show that Garcia missed 154 votes between January 1997 and this May, with 106 of them coming on a single day, May 13, 1997. That day the senator was part of a delegation of Latino elected officials from across the country meeting in Mexico City with government leaders, including President Ernesto Zedillo.
Munoz put pictures of "the empty senate chair of Jesus Garcia" in his campaign literature. "To this day I still believe that people don't know who [Munoz] is," says Larry Gonzalez. "Never once did I see a positive piece on Tony Munoz, meaning, 'This is what I'm gonna do, blah, blah, blah'--it was all negative."
Garcia's record on crime and education legislation looks the same as any other senate Democrat's: he voted for the Daley-backed Safe Neighborhoods Bill, for instance, and sponsored a bill imposing stricter penalties on gunrunners. He supported the governor's education bill that delivered an extra $130 million to Chicago schools and voted to increase funding for day care and after-school programs. Eight new schools have been built in the First District since Garcia took office, though everyone from disaffected parents to President Clinton will take credit for them.
How does Munoz react to Garcia's accusation that the machine beat him? "I would think it's a lot of whining," says Munoz. Far from denying that city services played a role in the election, it's something he's proud of.
"I did a grassroots campaign starting from walking-hard door-to-door precinct operation. And we went out there and provided city services as well, by doing the basic stuff. We walked the district, provided city services as best we could. I had my own volunteer section. The elected officials in the First Senatorial District tried to have people--their volunteers--which are all residents as well. Now I'm not gonna say some of them people weren't employed by the city of Chicago. Some might have been a police officer, a fellow friend of mine--that's a city employee, you know. I'm sure the current senator right now had people who were on county payroll or city payroll that were helping his--what's so different about that? Now when they say these massive droves of armies--I think that's a little far-fetched. He's goin' back to where I beat him because of the mayor. The mayor never even came out and publicly endorsed me."
Munoz says he doesn't know how many volunteers he had working on the campaign. "It's kinda hard to say with all the other elected officials' volunteers. Maybe, I don't know, 100?" That would be slightly more than one volunteer per precinct. Munoz guesses that on election day he might have had three or four people per precinct.
Even Munoz's own volunteers put the real number much higher. "That's exactly what it was--an army," says 25th Ward precinct captain Joe Ramirez, who's been working for the regular Democratic organization for 18 years and has never lost his precinct. "You can't win an election unless you have the troops to fight with. We started out in February, we had some 350 to 400 troops out every Saturday from February to March, and the last Saturday and Sunday prior to the election we had 500 troops out--on each day. We had six to eight people per precinct"--double previous elections, says Ramirez.
Garcia gave Daley and his allies good reason to target him. "We happen to be probably the most consistent opposition in the city at this point in time," says Garcia. "We've been able to beat them over a dozen times. Before this election I was ten and one, and that doesn't include Rick or Sonia--just my races.
"If you look at it, who's the opposition on the north side? There's a history of lakefront liberals and progressives--mostly liberals. And then there's del Valle, but that's a unique case. Look at the west side. There's no opposition on the west side but for Ricky Hendon and Danny Davis. On the south side, who's left? We've become the longest-running opposition. We're in the mayor's backyard, and we've beaten them every time.
"My reelection--and I realize this now, I don't think I quite realized it before--had to be the place where they stopped us. It had to be the line in the sand. Because if [Guillermo] Gomez got elected, it would create a whole series of potential problems for them. It would show an increase in Latino self-determination in the mayor's backyard, and it would happen at a time when we were challenging his economic development policies. The TIF mania and the regentrification of the city for upper-middle-class people who are almost exclusively white, versus working people--Latino, African-American, and white--whose only sin is that they don't have money. And that they live in neighborhoods in the city that developers want real bad. So it's about greed."
When independents get elected, Garcia says, "it forces one of the most important issues front and center again, which is race relations in this town. And the mayor just cannot discuss that, he gets nervous about it, he goes off, he gets uncontrollable because it's a difficult topic to grapple with. Let's talk about picking up garbage. Let's talk about putting the streetlights on. Let's not talk about race and how it affects so many things in Chicago. Because if you start talking about race it forces you to talk about why are all the people being pushed out of the perimeter of the Loop mostly people of color and some poor whites. And they're getting pushed out exclusively by rich white people. Is it going on? It's going on. Can we talk about it? No. Let's talk about how good the city's looking. But don't talk about the people getting pushed out. Don't talk about their ethnicity or their race, don't talk about poverty. Let's keep it nice, let's keep it controlled, let's keep the spin going."
Campaign literature Garcia dropped in Pilsen looked like straight-up antigentrification lit. ÁNO Nos Mover‡n! read the bold letters of one flyer, a photo of 18th Street in the background. "We shall not be moved."
"It's about Pilsen," the flyer went on. "Skyrocketing property taxes, the building of condominiums and housing for the rich are real threats to Pilsen. Just as working people were displaced from homes and neighborhoods in Wicker Park and West Town by 'gentrification,' it can happen to Pilsen. . . . Let's work together to defend Pilsen." At the bottom of the flyer were small photos of Garcia and Gomez. The words elect and reelect appeared nowhere.
The issue of development helps answer the question of why Garcia was targeted now--after having pursued a consistent agenda for 14 years. "You cannot look at this political race out of context," says Miguel del Valle, who handily won his own senate primary but lost the election for state central committeeman to Joseph Mario Moreno--by just 500 votes of 37,000 cast. "With the rapid development there are a lot of dollars at stake here. That land in Pilsen is increasing in value by the day. The demographic engineering that's happening in the city of Chicago is a big-stakes game. When you have people questioning that and individuals who have influence in the community, there are folks who would rather silence those individuals and put individual Latinos in office who will basically be yes people and who will agree totally and be in total support rather than challenge the administration."
Garcia is critical of development that doesn't make residents part of the process, that doesn't spell out exactly what's going to happen and where, and that doesn't ensure that the poor will not be displaced. For his trouble he's been labeled antidevelopment by everyone from Tribune columnist John McCarron to Alderman Danny Solis.
Alton Miller calls Garcia's defeat "a classic Chicago story. Just like Chinatown," he says. "You know, about the making of LA. Somebody should do a Chinatown about the making of Chicago. It would be about developers, and it would be about what developers want and need and who delivers for them.
"It's almost like a force of gravity or a force of nature, this churning, churning, churning development thing. Of whom Daley of course is the champion right now, and you've got the little champions of it all over the place. Not that development in itself is bad, but it's like any other force of nature. It's bad if it's unharnessed. And it's only beneficial to human beings if you can figure out how to harness it. Electricity unharnessed is lightning, and it kills you. And developers will kill the city if there's not also some popular means of dials and valves and getting a handle on it, so that development is not just for its own sake but it's for the sake of the larger common good. And Chuy understands that and Chuy's about that. As are a lot of progressives, but Chuy is doing something about it. And of course he's gonna therefore attract attention. They're gonna try to squash him."
The approaching mayoral race may have been another reason to squash Garcia. Since at least 1995 the senator has been talked about as a potential challenger to Daley, someone with the charisma and political skills to reignite the movement of Latinos, blacks, and progressive whites that swept Harold Washington into power.
Garcia insists that he's never considered that race seriously. "You know, people bring it up and you kind of egg 'em on because you want them to continue to be optimistic about the future and you want them to continue to give of themselves to their neighborhood. You've got to feed off each other. You can't tell 'em all, 'No, I'd never consider that because it's so hard, Daley's so strong, you have to raise a lot of money.' I mean, you basically tell 'em to crawl in a hole and die. So I say, 'Well, you know, let's get it together. You just keep doing what you're doing and we'll keep trying here, and maybe it'll all come together and we'll do it.'"
Garcia is animated, funny.
"A lot of people in the black community more and more have approached me about a Latino running for mayor, because it's gotta be someone else. There was Harold and that was a great time for the city, and now there's Daley and we all know where Daley's coming from--it's like, status quo, control, it's not like our city under him, it's like his city. And they're saying, 'In order to get us off the polarization that characterizes so much of Chicago politics and especially mayoral elections, we should support a Latino. And you're the guy.'
"But then I tell them, 'Wait a minute, wait a minute. I don't wanna run.' And they say, 'Well, OK, who do you wanna run?' Who do you wanna run? Then they say, 'Well, maybe Santos? You know, she sent him, she put him in his place.' Or they'll say, 'What about Gutierrez? What about Gutierrez?' I'll say, 'Well, what about him?' And they wait, like, to see exactly what I'm gonna say about him, and then they'll say, 'Well, del Valle, man, he's always been with us, right?' So I tell 'em, yeah, you know, Louie's very popular--or Miguel, he's always been there, a straight shooter, very smart, good man, great heart. So, I play it that way. And sometimes I'm kind of shy about stuff like that, so I'm just like, 'Aw, man.' So I just try to have fun. And just keep it rolling, you know? Keep it on the positive side."
It's true that Mayor Daley never officially endorsed Munoz in his campaign to defeat Garcia. "This mayor has a reputation for being hands-off and for staying out of ward races and other kinds of races," says del Valle. "But what people don't realize is that there's this roving band of City Hall Latino patronage workers who will go wherever they are assigned. This last time around they were assigned to concentrate, under the leadership of Victor Reyes, on defeating Senator Garcia."
The "roving band" is the Hispanic Democratic Organization, an amorphous entity mentioned rarely by the dailies and then only in passing. "To cement his relationship with Latinos, Daley has created the Hispanic Democratic Organization to push candidates," John Kass wrote in the Tribune in 1995. Earlier he'd reported, "City Hall has also elevated Victor Reyes and the Hispanic Democratic Organization as a fundraising tool."
Reyes heads the Mayor's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. The city's lobbyists in Washington and Springfield answer to him, and his office is responsible for establishing relationships with legislators and working with them on matters of importance to the city. In July Kass accused Reyes of handing out O'Hare patronage jobs to 11th Ward hacks. Reyes would not return phone calls for this story. ("He doesn't deal with HDO," says his secretary.)
"Some people say it's a big organization, other people say it's not," Tony Munoz says of HDO. "It just depends who you talk to, where you get the information from." Talking to Munoz doesn't help. He says HDO is "nothing big" and that no one of particular importance belongs to it. In fact, he makes it sound a lot like a social club. "It's just a bunch of guys who get together, that's all. We'll basically talk. We've had picnics and stuff." He says there's no mission statement or officers. "Victor Reyes doesn't play a role in HDO," he declares.
The minimal paper trail HDO has to leave--it's registered as a political action committee--gives a clearer picture. Its avowed purpose is "to promote the goals and ideals of the Hispanic Community through the exercise of the right to vote," according to papers filed with the state. Reyes is listed on those papers as the original chairman; in 1994 HDO filed an amendment that showed Daniel Alvarez, commissioner of Human Services, to be the new chair. Reyes and Alvarez aren't the only folks in HDO leadership to have landed expensive City Hall jobs--others include Al Sanchez, deputy commissioner of Streets and Sanitation; Michi Pena, former first deputy director of the Mayor's Office of Inquiry and Information, now assistant commissioner of Human Services; Roberto Medina, formerly a supervisor with Inquiry and Information, now director of personnel at Human Services; Ray Gamboa, director of administrative services in Human Services; George Esquivel, assistant general superintendent of Streets and Sanitation; and Rudy Urian, deputy commissioner of operations at the Department of Fleet Management.
From July 1997 to July 1998 HDO reported receiving $32,000, just half of it itemized. But $32,000 is peanuts for the group: between July 1993 and July 1994 HDO reported taking in more than $300,000. Munoz dodged the question of whether HDO provided him with precinct workers, but he says he received no financial assistance from the organization. Not that he needed it; he reported raising $110,000 in three months, his contributors reading like a roll call of city and county contractors. In the end he outspent Garcia $118,000 to $80,000.
Munoz refuses to talk about how HDO is structured--"I don't wanna speak for my buddies," he says. Asked what relation Daley has to HDO, Munoz responds, "I'm sure he's heard of HDO--everybody's heard of HDO."
The organization is secretive probably for good reason. "Patronage is alive and well in the city of Chicago even though we have Shakman," says del Valle. The Shakman decree is the federal court ruling that prohibits patronage hirings and firings. "Someday people will understand that this administration in many respects functions the way that the old administrations functioned."
One Munoz campaign worker discussed the organization. "The organization HDO are very fond supporters of the mayor," said this worker. "They help out wherever, they deal with Hispanic issues, and . . . they came in and helped us. So that was a big boost for us."
On membership: "HDO, the majority are city employees, and the majority have very nice positions within the city government. HDO is probably, citywide you're looking at a thousand. A thousand hard-core people with heavy political experience, working precincts, knocking on doors." Later the campaign worker revised the estimate to 1,500 members, about 15 percent of them non-Hispanic.
On fund-raising: "It's just a drop in the bucket for the main person with HDO to say, 'We're gonna do a fund-raiser, we're gonna help this guy to get him going.' And it's nothing for them to say, out of the kindness of their heart, here's $200. You times that times 1,500 people. Everybody, boom, boom, boom. HDO is a very close-knit family, and they do it all the time. They come up with something, here, here's an envelope. Boom. Get you going. That's how they operate."
On Munoz: "He is one of the original founders of HDO. That's one of their own, and this is the first big election that one of their own got elected."
On HDO's use of city services: "HDO's 1,500 strong. And you're looking at that many city employees from various departments. When issues come up as far as services, we can touch bases on just about every department--Streets and Sanitation, whatever--to get a service per request, you know, should we be the one knocking on doors and people say they'd like this or they'd like that.
"When I knock on your door you can be sure of one thing--that when I ask you for the vote, 90 percent of the time they're gonna go my way. . . . I got a lady here last night called me, 'Someone dumped a load of tires in my alley, what do I have to do to get 'em out?' First thing I'm gonna do this morning is make sure a truck goes over there--again, access to city services. The people won't forget that."
On hiring, promotions, and forced participation in HDO: "Basically, if a person does not wanna get involved--first of all, they did get involved--that's how they got to where they're at. When you meet a person from HDO it's in their blood, like it's in my blood--politics. They enjoy going out and working, they enjoy knocking on doors, selling a candidate. . . . And there's no strings attached--they're out there because they want to. They got to their position through this politicking, and sure, if a person's a hard worker, well if there's room for advancement--sure. Why not? As far as the promotions and stuff, I'd rather see someone I know get it than someone that I don't know."
On who's next: "Rick Munoz, the writing is on the wall for him. They're gonna take him out next. Luis Gutierrez is the next one. He better start saving his money because he's gonna have to go to the bank to use it. One by one. We're gonna get 'em--each election. We're gonna bring 'em down one at a time."
One Latino city employee hired during the Washington administration says that workers who refuse to participate in HDO face the consequences. "Me, personally, I don't cooperate with them, and I don't care--they can call me for drug tests all they want. I tell them, I'll sell my piss. I'm not doing drugs, so they can test me every day. They have their ways of hassling people, get written up for idiotic stuff, they got their ways of gettin' on you. That's the way it works--it's the political system. When you got the job you knew that." He says he has two nephews who worked in Munoz's campaign--"one of 'em wants a job, the other one he just wanted a way to get some money."
Several reports suggest that HDOers working north-side precincts were pulled off those races to work the First District, an indication of the importance placed on defeating Garcia. One campaign worker for Lisa Madigan, who was running for the senate on the north side, said the HDOers there "weren't pulling their weight. They told me a week going into it that that's because they were told that they needed to be on the south side. Eventually they told me that they would not be available for election day because they already committed somewhere else. . . . There were some people that only worked part of the day that went down there. Even some of the people that did stay were in constant communication with the south side."
HDO's win against Garcia is likely to strengthen the organization. "The fact that they beat Chuy means more attention is gonna be given to them from the administration," says a political consultant who's worked against HDO on the north side. But he doesn't think Rick Munoz will be an easy target. "I think you're going to witness a backlash to Chuy's loss, especially in the 22nd Ward. There's a growing 'Remember Chuy' type of fever. I think Rick is gonna whip their ass."
Daley's reach extended far beyond Chicago in the primary.
"The word was out," says a Springfield lobbyist who identifies herself as a Garcia supporter. "It was evident who the mayor was supporting, and it was evident that that's who the mayor was encouraging people to support financially."
She says his preference became clear at meetings she had with other lobbyists. "When we were sitting around, we'd be going through the list of everybody, the entire General Assembly. And when you get to Jesus and if I'm in the room I'd always say, well, you know, I can talk to Chuy, I can get along with him, he and I work well together, this and that, I would recommend that we support him. And someone says, 'Hey, you know that he's not the mayor's candidate. You know that the mayor is big on Munoz and it's an important race to him.' And that was not just one, that was probably two or three different occasions when the same sort of scenario was played out.
"I don't think it was a substance-based evaluation," says the lobbyist. "I don't know of anything that Garcia did that would have made him a particular target."
According to an Almanac of Illinois Politics analysis of party support in the General Assembly in 1997, Garcia voted with the Democratic leadership 100 percent of the time. The most ironic example was a bill he sponsored to allow moderate-income home owners in gentrifying neighborhoods to defer payment of a portion of their rising property taxes until they sold their homes. The bill passed the senate with a two-thirds majority. In June, while Garcia's bill was sitting on the governor's desk awaiting his signature, city officials announced a "first of its kind" program--the Tribune called it a "novel" plan--to defer payment of property taxes by moderate-income home owners in gentrifying neighborhoods until their property is sold.
To Maria de los Angeles Torres, an associate professor of political science at DePaul University who headed the Mayor's Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs under Harold Washington, Daley has stepped far out of line. "What is Daley doing going around destroying someone from the neighborhood who in fact is an honest, decent politician who just happened to disagree with him on the [development of] one of the neighborhoods in his district? It's overkill what he did.
"There are a lot of cleavages in the neighborhoods," says Torres. "And I think that in a certain sense that's healthy. Political cleavages allow for political debate. Latinos are very diverse, and we should be. And part of the political game and the electoral game is one faction versus another faction--that's politics." But, she says, "a mayor has a different role. A mayor instead of playing into the cleavages should be about the business of providing forums by which different groups are brought together to debate issues.
"And this isn't just about two different people out there having different points of view. Because Munoz didn't just get up one morning and decide, 'Well, you know what? I'm really committed to this neighborhood. I wanna build an organization. I've worked in this neighborhood and I want to represent it.' That's not what we have here. It isn't somebody who has been involved in electoral politics or trying to get the community involved in electoral politics. What Munoz needs to know is that he's not there because the Latino community put him there. He's there because the machine put him there."
One unanswered question is how many Latino voters rejected Garcia for his politics. "A message from Latino voters," read the headline of a Tribune editorial two days after the election. It concluded that "it may be that Latinos are more interested in claiming their share of the prosperity than in railing about how they've been done wrong." But unless by "prosperity" the editors were referring to new garbage cans, voter opinion of Garcia's politics would seem impossible to deduce from an election where city services and job promises played so dominant a role.
The Tribune editorial and other media asserted that Garcia had lost support from the business community, but it was difficult to get Munoz supporters from that sector to say why in anything other than broad generalities. "Actions speak louder than words," said Rebecca Vega, owner of Anel's Boutique on 26th Street. She used to support Garcia, but "it was time for a change." Why? "The people need change. What's missing is true representation, that's what's missing."
There's a significant bloc of conservative Latinos, perhaps best represented by 25th Ward alderman Danny Solis (identified in the same Tribune editorial as the "Latino deputy" of the mayor's "political machine"). The media often framed the senate race as a contest--even a personal one--between Garcia and Solis. After the election Solis was hailed as the new Latino power. "In the wake of the . . . primary . . . Solis has established himself as a force to be reckoned with in Chicago's growing Latino community," wrote Steve Neal in the Sun-Times. Actually, Solis barely carried his own ward for Munoz, who edged Garcia there by 61 votes. "Solis just happens to be on the scene at this time," says del Valle. "He's the designated Latino political power. Solis didn't produce the field operation in this election--the mayor's office produced that field operation. And Solis didn't produce the money to defeat Garcia--it was done through the mayor's office. And it wasn't Solis's ward that defeated Garcia--it was the 11th Ward, John Daley's ward, and Ed Burke. Of course it's important for the mayor to be able to point to a Latino and say, 'This is my guy.' And it's important to have a mouthpiece, and that's what Solis is for the city."
While locally and even nationally Garcia has been touted for his ability to build cross-racial coalitions--his coalition building was featured last year in the Wall Street Journal--Munoz supporters played on a strong strain of racism in the Latino community to turn voters against him. "The biggest thing that [Garcia] had with him was that he was running with the black caucus," says regular precinct captain Joe Ramirez. "He's my race, but he's riding with the black caucus. . . . He doesn't even hang around with any of our own people down in Springfield." (Never mind that the only other Latino senator is del Valle, whom the machine also targeted.) Ramirez adds, "Of course you've gotta throw that negative out to get people to turn over. And they understood my point."
Garcia's concern for the poor holds little attraction either. "He has a certain class people behind him," says Ramirez, "and needless to say, he has that hard-core lower-class people behind him. The lower-income-class people are supportive of him, and that's because they are educated in his way of thinking. They maybe don't know the other side, what's more positive for them, or what could be--gettin' that piece of the cake."
Garcia's politics might be most attractive to constituents who can't even vote; a third of Pilsen and Little Village residents aren't citizens. Issues he's strong on, like protecting low-income residents from displacement, make little sense to Ramirez. "He talked about the TIF--stuff that we really need he was opposing. And the key thing was displacement, that Hispanics were going to be 'displaced.' Their taxes are gonna go up, they're not gonna be able to pay the rents. Look, our poor people come from Mexico, they come to Chicago to get a job, and when they come here these people are making big money. They're making $10, $12, $14 an hour once they come here. Ninety percent of the people that come do have good-paying jobs, so why can't they afford to pay a higher rent? I'm just saying, if the rents go up, you're making good money here, you're not back in Mexico where you're paid two or three pesos a week, or whatever it is. We're talking this is America."
For Garcia and del Valle, the loss of a senate seat to a machine candidate is a shot to the heart in the fight for self-determination. "The irony here is it's the same individuals we went to court to fight, to gain Latino political representation and opportunities to elect Latinos when we had nothing," says del Valle. "These days it's not that they're electing someone who is non-Latino, but they're still around determining what Latino."
"That's what you wind up with with machine politics--control," says Garcia. "And the cost that you pay is the ability to control your representatives and to make them work for you. What differences are there between the mayor and his allies? There can't be differences. If there are differences you negotiate through jobs, contracts, things of that sort. It's about keeping total control of elected officials. And it's about eliminating opposition that may get complicated. And I guess that complication is the swing factor. If Latinos aren't under control, it makes governing risky and uncertain."
Garcia laughs. "It makes it democratic."
"Where I'll be in January I don't know," he says. "I've had discussions, offers of employment, and feelers from various sectors, from organized labor to foundations to possibly interest in appointed office in state government--Democrats and Republicans." He's cracking up. "I'm an independent so I'm not sure where to go--there's been an offer to defect to the Republican Party." Garcia laughs.
"The immediate political work that I'm embarking on is the reelection of Ricardo Munoz," he says. "He's next, others are next. They're looking for someone to run for Congress. Their heads are swelled." Sonia Silva's Republican opponent in November is the sister-in-law of the 12th Ward superintendent--who was appointed by Ray Frias. And for those who thought it a coincidence that the machine picked a Munoz to run for the senate, Silva's challenger is named Teresa Garcia. "There's a new political order," says Jesus Garcia, "and they see themselves as the center of that order, and it's about eliminating any independent voices. It's about total control, it's about total domination. And I think they're wrong. They got lucky, we were asleep. And those are my immediate political tasks."
Maria de los Angeles Torres worries about losing Garcia.
"Chuy never wanted to be a politician. He didn't set out to become an elected official. It sort of happened--Rudy got killed and then Chuy was the person--he sort of fell into that. Chuy is a guy who is very low-key, really. And he ended up doing this and actually doing it very well, in the sense of really struggling with the dilemmas that someone who is honest and who is trying to do the right thing is faced with when they go into electoral politics. My fear is that he's gonna find that he's gonna be incredibly liberated personally not being in politics, and we're gonna lose a good politician.
"I think there's a lot of people who care about Chuy and who care about what he has done who are truly shocked at what happened and are disgusted at the way that it happened. There's enough for him to build on if he wants to run again. The question is gonna be, does he want to do it?"
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Jesus Garcia photo by Bruce Powell; Garcia and Harold Washington in 1986 uncredited photo; Garcia photo by Bruce Powell; photo of posters by Bruce Powell;.