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State House: Community activist Rudy Lozano battles journalist Silvana Tabares for 21st District Democratic nod


Silvana Tabares

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Updated: March 24, 2012 9:03AM

You might not guess there’s a primary campaign for state representative under way as you drive east along 47th Street in La Grange.

But that changes quickly as you near First Avenue in McCook. You’ll start seeing plenty of campaign posters for Rudy Lozano or Silvana Tabares.

That’s the difference between the Illinois 23rd State House District, where there is no primary contest, and the 21st, which has become perhaps the hottest political battle on the Southwest Side.

Lozano, 36, a community activist who lost a primary race to state Rep. Dan Burke two years ago, is running against Tabares, 33, a former journalist who is making her first bid for public office. Because of a legislative remap, there is no incumbent.

Both candidates are from Chicago. Both say their three priorities are jobs, education and public safety. Both expect to spend about $200,000. And both have lined up an impressive array of endorsements.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez are backing Lozano, as are some Latino legislators and most of the major unions.

Tabares is supported by the local Democratic aldermen, including Edward Burke (14th), George A. Cardenas (12th) and Michael Zalewski (23rd). She’s also backed by most of the suburban mayors in the district, which includes parts of the Brighton Park, Garfield Ridge and Little Village neighborhoods and all or parts of the suburbs of Cicero, Forest View, Lyons, Stickney, Riverside, McCook, Bedford Park and Summit.

State Sen. Martin Sandoval, who backed Burke over Lozano two years ago, has endorsed Tabares this time. Also backing Tabares is Juan Rangel, a former Rahm Emanuel campaign operative whose United Neighborhood Organization runs a burgeoning network of charter schools for the Chicago Board of Education.

At least two polls have shown Lozano with a lead, but Tabares said the results of her polling are “very favorable.”

Lozano sees himself as an independent who is challenging the candidate of the party regulars.

“This race comes down to one question: What kind of representation do we want — the same old people calling the shots or do we want a real homegrown candidate?” Lozano said.

Lozano has the edge in name recognition. His father, a charismatic community and labor activist for whom a school and branch library are named, was shot to death in his home in 1983, two months after losing a 22nd Ward runoff election by 17 votes. His aunt, Emma Lozano, is a fairly well-known activist in the immigrant rights community.

But Tabares said that background will work against Lozano because voters will see him as coming from “a political family.”

“I am a very independent candidate,” she said. “I was never in politics before. What motivated me to run for office are the issues.”

Susana Mendoza, the former representative of the district, which is 60 percent Hispanic, was elected Chicago city clerk last year. Her replacement, state Rep. Mike Zalewski, is running unopposed in the newly drawn 23rd District.

No Republican filed to run in the primary, although the party could appoint a candidate for the fall election.

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