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Saturday morning Miguel del Valle began a speech to a packed room at the Heartland Cafe in Rogers Park by saying, “Some of you have to be wondering . . . ”
I don’t think I was the only one who expected him to finish the sentence with “why I’m here.”
But he didn’t. Instead he said, “Why are we here, given who this man is? Why was this necessary? Why was it necessary for us to be in a runoff?”
Joe Moore, the 49th Ward alderman, stood to Del Valle’s side, looking out at everyone who constituted “us” at that time: the chanting neighborhood residents, union members, and public officials—including Cook County clerk David Orr and U.S. reps Jan Schakowsky and Jesse Jackson Jr.—rallying for Moore’s reelection bid.
At first I found it strange that Del Valle was there, let alone speaking. Last fall Mayor Daley pulled a surprising and brilliant campaign maneuver by appointing Del Valle, then a progressive state senator, to the vacant city clerk job. Along with appointed city treasurer Stephanie Neely, who's African-American, the Puerto Rican Del Valle helped Daley run for reelection as a transracial coalition builder. In February all three won their races easily.
Moore, on the other hand, was an annoyance to Daley for most of the last year, serving as the chief sponsor for the foie gras ban and the big-box minimum-wage ordinance. In blasting the city’s ineffective recycling program, rigged hiring practices, and “third-world” public transit system, the alderman became one of the media’s favorite Daley critics.
Though Moore pointed out that he and the mayor were on the same side of most council votes, his top aldermanic challenger, Don Gordon, ripped him for spending time defying the mayor and talking to reporters when the ward needed his attention. In the February 28 municipal election Moore came a few dozen votes short of winning an outright majority, forcing him into the runoff with Gordon.
On Saturday, though, Daley’s chosen city clerk stirred up the Heartland crowd with his impassioned praise of Daley’s chief legislative opponent. “Why, given that we have a true champion here, an individual who is highly regarded, highly respected for his principles time and time again—why didn’t he win by a landslide?” Del Valle asked the crowd on Saturday. “We’re here because every now and then we take things for granted.”
Moore had been so busy looking out for the interests of the poor, the voiceless, and the regular “neighborhood folk” that he hadn’t done a good enough job of getting people to the polls in February, Del Valle said. “It is essential that every single individual who is registered to vote, who can cast a vote, will come out and vote on election day so that this ward ends up sending a clear message to the rest of the city of Chicago that we have a quality alderman who takes principled positions and will be supported in the future when he takes principled positions.”
Del Valle praised Moore’s support for a “living wage” for big-box retail employees, even though his slatemate Daley killed the wage ordinance with a veto. “And so the kind of message that gets sent by sending Joe Moore back to the City Council with high numbers is a strong one, and it’s absolutely necessary in the city of Chicago, and we’re going to make sure that happens,” the clerk said.
By this time, I doubt I was the only one with the impression that this was really Del Valle’s way of sending a message about his own “principled positions”—and launching his own long-term campaign for a different citywide office.