Crim­i­nal charge knocks Burke down but not out of re-elec­tion bid

Chicago Sun-Times (Sunday) - - TOP NEWS - mark­[email protected]­ | @MarkBrownCST

Some peo­ple as­sume run­ning against Chicago’s long­est-serv­ing, most pow­er­ful al­der­man is a slam dunk now that Ed­ward M. Burke (14th) is fac­ing a fed­eral cor­rup­tion charge.

The can­di­dates chal­leng­ing him know bet­ter.

“It’s hard,” said 28-year-old civil en­gi­neer Tanya Patino as she cam­paigned door-todoor one evening in Gage Park.

Patino wasn’t re­fer­ring to the cold or the howl­ing wind that threat­ened to blow away her cam­paign ma­te­ri­als.

She was talk­ing about the dif­fi­culty of get­ting peo­ple to choose sides against the only al­der­man the ward has known for 50 years, a can­di­date with $12 mil­lion in cam­paign funds and a cor­re­spond­ing hoard of po­lit­i­cal chits.

There’s no doubt Burke is beat­able, given his le­gal prob­lems and the ward’s over­whelm­ingly Latino pop­u­la­tion.

But de­feat­ing him will re­quire a strong cam­paign and a high voter turnout, agree Patino and 38-year-old lawyer Jaime Guz­man, who are shap­ing up as Burke’s two op­po­nents on the Feb. 26 bal­lot.

“A lot of peo­ple still aren’t aware of the news,” Patino said.

“The news,” of course, is that Burke was charged with at­tempted ex­tor­tion, ac­cused of try­ing to ob­tain busi­ness for his law firm from the owner of a Burger King fran­chise that needed his ap­proval for a re­mod­el­ing.

Fewer still, Patino said, know Burke was Don­ald Trump’s real es­tate tax lawyer in Chicago, a po­lit­i­cally po­tent is­sue in a com­mu­nity where nine of ev­ery 10 res­i­dents are Latino, most of Mex­i­can her­itage.

Then, there are those who know all that but, for var­i­ous rea­sons, re­main re­luc­tant to com­mit their sup­port to some­one be­sides Burke.

“I think some peo­ple are think­ing about it,” said Patino. “A lot of women are ex­cited for me.”

That evening, some who an­swered their doors promised to vote for Patino, asked for yard signs and thanked her for run­ning. A for­mer Burke po­lit­i­cal worker hugged her while gush­ing that he’d never seen a can­di­date go door-to-door in the neigh­bor­hood.

It was en­cour­ag­ing for Patino, who lives with her par­ents in Archer Heights and quit a job at Peo­ples Gas to de­vote full time to the elec­tion.

Patino’s cam­paign re­ceived a big boost ear­lier this month when she was en­dorsed by U.S. Rep. Je­sus “Chuy” Gar­cia, who car­ried the ward handily in his 2015 cam­paign against Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

She got an­other lift Thurs­day when a third Burke challenger, Jose Luis Tor­rez, dropped out, promis­ing to help her cam­paign. Tor­rez, also a Gar­cia loy­al­ist, said he with­drew at the con­gress­man’s re­quest.

The al­liance could bring as many as 100 Tor­rez vol­un­teers to Patino. But it also fu­eled an op­po­si­tion nar­ra­tive that Gar­cia is act­ing like an old-school po­lit­i­cal boss and that she’s just an­other pawn.

Patino said she has no con­cerns about that be­cause the vot­ers she meets gen­er­ally hold Gar­cia in high re­gard.

The 14th Ward draws vot­ers from five South­west Side neigh­bor­hoods — Gage Park, Archer Heights, West Els­don, Brighton Park and Garfield Ridge.

Patino soon will open a cam­paign of­fice kitty corner from Burke’s 14th Ward of­fice on 51st Street. Her cam­paign has been op­er­at­ing out of the Gage Park base­ment of her boyfriend, newly elected state Rep. Aaron Or­tiz.

In Novem­ber, Or­tiz de­feated Burke’s brother, Rep. Daniel Burke, one of sev­eral vic­to­ries for Gar­cia’s al­lies that em­bold­ened pro­gres­sive Lati­nos to think they could bring down the al­der­man.

But Daniel Burke bested Or­tiz by 145 votes in the 14th Ward, Guz­man points out. He also notes Burke has a base of maybe 4,000 con­ser­va­tive-minded vot­ers — many of them Repub­li­cans who voted for Trump.

“It takes a lot more than a Chuy en­dorse­ment to win 14,” said Guz­man, a long­time mem­ber of Gar­cia’s po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion who ad­mits be­ing disappointed when the con­gress­man en­dorsed Patino. He be­lieves he’s bet­ter qual­i­fied.

The 38-year-old Gage Park res­i­dent cites his ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in the 22nd Ward of­fice of Ald. Ri­cardo Munoz and in Gar­cia’s Cook County com­mis­sioner of­fice. He got his law li­cense in 2015 and now works for the Pilsen Law Cen­ter.

Guz­man said Gar­cia hasn’t asked him to drop out, as he did with Tor­rez, and said he hasn’t asked for Gar­cia’s sup­port.

Guz­man said he will stay in the race and see what de­vel­ops.

A fourth can­di­date, Irene Cor­ral, isn’t ex­pected to sur­vive a chal­lenge to her nom­i­nat­ing pe­ti­tions.

A chal­lenge to Patino’s pe­ti­tions also has yet to be fi­nally re­solved, but a Chicago Board of Elec­tion Com­mis­sion­ers hear­ing ex­am­iner has in­di­cated he sup­ports put­ting her on the bal­lot. That may yet lead to a law­suit over the ques­tion of whether Patino was dis­qual­i­fied from run­ning be­cause she signed Tor­rez’s nom­i­nat­ing pe­ti­tions be­fore join­ing the race her­self.

Al­though Burke has been no­to­ri­ously stingy about spend­ing his cam­paign funds, he’s ex­pected to sink as much as $1 mil­lion into his re-elec­tion — leav­ing plenty to pay the le­gal bills ahead.

Patino and Guz­man have re­ported rais­ing less than $20,000 each, an­other rea­son Burke can’t be writ­ten off.


Tanya Patino, who’s aim­ing to un­seat Ald. Ed­ward M. Burke, and Jose Luis Tor­rez, who dropped his cam­paign bid Thurs­day, at City Hall.

Jaime Guz­man, a 38-year-old lawyer, also is run­ning for 14th Ward al­der­man.

Ed­ward M. Burke

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