(Editor’s note: A shorter version of this story ran online and in the July 27 print edition of the Landmark. This story has been expanded to include comments from Javier Loera Cervantes, a candidate in the race.)

Javier Loera Cervantes

A Chicago public school teacher is mounting an independent challenge in the 1st Senate district challenging a candidate who is engaged to the daughter of incumbent Tony Munoz (D-Chicago). Munoz withdrew from the race after Javier Loera Cervantes filed nominating petitions on the last day that nominating petitions could be filed in what seems to be a time-tested technique to ensure that Cervantes would face no competition in the Democratic primary.

Froylan “Froy” Jimenez, 46, says he is running to give people a choice. Jimenez unsuccessfully challenged Munoz in the Democratic primary two years ago.

“As a teacher that advocates for increased civic participation and tells my kids to have faith in good government, I recognized the need to challenge the establishment and offer an alternative to politically connected candidates,” said Jimenez who teaches civics at Hancock High School on the southwest side of Chicago.

The redrawn 1st District ranges from the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago west to Brookfield and includes the portion of Riverside south of the BNSF railroad tracks as well as much of Brookfield.

Froylan Jimenez

Cervantes told the Landmark that he had thought that Munoz, who was first elected to the Senate in 1998, was going to run for another term but Munoz suggested that Cervantes file to run as well just in case he changed his mind. Cervantes said Munoz suggested that he run for state senator.

“He just said ‘look Jav, I know you have the fire in your belly for this, if I decide, last minute, not to this you should just try to be on the ballot,’” Cervantes said.

Jimenez recently filed nominating petitions with 4,686 signatures to get on the ballot as an independent but his signatures have been challenged. Three thousand valid signatures are required. Jimenez said the petition challenge was expected.

“The machine doesn’t want people to have a choice,” Jimenez said.

The Chicago Board of Elections is now conducting a detailed examination of the signatures on Jimenez’s petitions to determine how many are valid. The examination should be completed next week.

No Republican candidate has filed in the race.

Jimenez beat off a petition challenge when he challenged Munoz two years ago.

“He did everything to get me off the ballot,” Jimenez said. “The political games incumbent politicians play to get their own chosen candidates to succeed them is a mockery of the political process and an ugly way to circumvent our democracy that ultimately limits the people’s choice.”

Jimenez serves on the Hancock High School Local School Council and was elected to the city wide Local School Council Advisory Board. He is a member of the Members First faction of the Chicago Teachers Union which unsuccessfully challenged the dominant faction of the CTU in union elections this year and lost. Jimenez ran for a union post but was defeated.

Jimenez said he offers new leadership that is not tied to the orthodoxies of the left and right.

“I want to empower the voters of the 1st District with a real choice and a candidate that is not connected with the insider political establishment and more connected with the pulse of frustration and the dire need for new leadership and changes in our state,” Jimenez said. 

Jimenez was born in Mexico and moved to Bensenville as a little boy. He graduated from Fenton High School and earned a Chick Evans scholarship to Marquette University and now lives in Bridgeport.

Cervantes, 40, was born in and still lives in Pilsen. He now lives about half a mile outside the district’s new boundaries but told the Landmark that he will move into the district after the election and is looking forward to being a first time homeowner. After some time as an art student Cervantes worked for 12 years as union representative for SEIU Healthcare working throughout Illinois.

“I represented nursing home workers, childcare providers, and also home care workers all across Illinois,” Cervantes said.

After leaving SEIU in 2018 Cervantes worked for Chicago Alderwoman Stephanie Coleman for about a year.

“I was her community outreach and legislative director,” Cervantes said.

He is also an artist working in Pilsen.

Cervantes, whose mother immigrated from Mexico and was a single parent, says that he wants to be a state senator to continue his work on behalf of working people that he began as a union representative.

“Because of my experience working all throughout the state I understand how to work with everybody and everybody has different needs but making sure that all our families are taken care of,” Cervantes said.