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Chico, del Valle will face question of unity candidate

Updated: April 27, 2011 10:55AM

The prospect of a Latino “unity” candidate for mayor of Chicago might be dead . . . at least for now.

With fewer than six weeks before the election, both Latino candidates, Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle, are convinced that they have a chance to become the next mayor — and the first Latino to run the city. Both have garnered key endorsements. And though Chico outpaces del Valle in raising funds, they are relatively close in recent polls.

Latino elected officials and community leaders have divided their support among the main four remaining mayoral candidates. From the start, Juan Rangel, president of the powerful United Neighborhood Organization, has supported Rahm Emanuel, while state Sen. Martin Sandoval has endorsed Carol Moseley Braun.

Former 1st Ward alderman Manny Flores, chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission, is backing Chico, but 22nd Ward Ald. Ricardo Munoz has endorsed del Valle.

It’s obvious that there are diverse perspectives and competing interests in the Latino community and that neither Chico nor del Valle is running on an exclusively Latino agenda.

When African-American leaders opted to support Braun, calling her a “unity” candidate, the question arose whether a similar deal could be brokered between the two Latino candidates. But both camps have rejected the idea so far.

At some point soon, however, Chico or del Valle will have to make a hard assessment of his chances and decide to continue to the end or drop out and support the other Latino candidate.

At a crowded Nuevo Leon restaurant in Pilsen on Sunday morning, where Chico and his latest big supporter, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, were savoring enchiladas and tacos., Chico told me he does not tell any candidate to drop out. “There is an evolution that takes place to build a coalition,” he said.

But Chico added that he would love to have del Valle’s support.

“He is a fine individual,” Chico said. “I have worked with him for many years. He has been a leader in the Legislature. Who wouldn’t like to have his support?”

Chico went on to say that his campaign is not only about the Latino community, and he pointed out for example how happy he was to be endorsed by the Italian American Political Action Committee.

Chico also expects that Gutierrez’s endorsement will help attract African-American voters because, he noted, Gutierrez supported Harold Washington.

Del Valle vowed to stay in the race and described the prospect of a single Latino candidate as a “lack of respect” to all voters. In a democracy, he said, voters need options.

Chicago’s first Latino mayor, del Valle said, could win only with support from all communities.

“Even if a candidate attracts 100 percent of the Latino vote,” he said, “he or she could not win without the support of other groups.”

Del Valle accused Chico and Emanuel of being insiders who made millions through clout after having worked in government.

“That is the main difference between Chico, Rahm and me,” he said. “Both are cut from the same cloth.”

For the first time, Chicago’s Latino community has two qualified and experienced candidates who have a real shot at becoming mayor, particularly in a runoff election.

But both must consider the not-so-pleasant prospect of becoming the Latino Ralph Nader — spoiling it for the other guy.

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