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Gutierrez to back Chico

 Rep. Luis Gutierrez

Rep. Luis Gutierrez

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Updated: April 30, 2011 4:46AM

Rep. Luis Gutierrez plans to endorse mayoral candidate Gery Chico at a news conference this morning, the Democratic congressman from Chicago told the Sun-Times and NBC5 News on Saturday.

A week after the city’s African-American leaders struggled to narrow the field on behalf of a “consensus candidate,” former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, the Hispanic community still has two major contenders.

City Clerk Miguel del Valle is running in addition to Chico, the former chief of staff to Mayor Daley and former president of the Chicago Board of Education.

Though Gutierrez and del Valle, both of Puerto Rican descent, have had political differences over the years, Gutierrez on Saturday called del Valle “an outstanding leader. It was a tough decision.”

Chico is of Mexican-Greek-Lithuanian descent, but, Gutierrez said, ethnicity is not the issue. “Chico is the stronger candidate,’’ he said. “He can build bridges. He is still a Back of the Yards kid from a tough working-class neighborhood.’’

Mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel can boast of his own Hispanic support. The former chief of staff for President Obama has been endorsed by the United Neighborhood Organization, the city’s largest Hispanic community group.

Gutierrez, a fierce proponent of immigration reform, has long been critical of what he see as Emanuel’s failure to turn Obama’s campaign promise to overhaul the immigration system into law.

Gutierrez took aim at Emanuel’s campaign commercials. “There’s this huge valley between the Rahm Emanuel that I know . . . and the newer, kinder, softer Rahm. . . . Maybe he doesn’t cuss anymore or send dead fish to people. . . . But immigration is a reflection of Rahm’s past. . . . I want the next mayor of the city of Chicago to be consistent,” he said.

Gutierrez briefly considered running after Daley decided in September not to seek re-election.

“I never really truly appreciated Gery Chico until this race,” he said, citing Chico’s education platform. On education, he “is a heavyweight. He understands our system. He has a track record.’’

While Gutierrez’s endorsement is a plus for Chico, the Hispanic vote in the November 2010 election can be described as anemic, according to totals compiled by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Wards represented by Hispanic alderman made up four of the bottom five in total votes cast.

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