Chicago alderman Ray Lopez has announced that he will challenge Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in the 4th Congressional District Democratic primary next year.
Lopez, who has been alderman of the southwest side 15th ward since 2015, said that his centrist politics are a better fit than the progressive politics of Garcia for the district.
“The incumbent is wildly more extreme and to the left than I am,” Lopez told the Landmark in a telephone interview. “He is beholden to a narrative that, quite frankly, a vast majority of the voters within this district do not espouse. I believe you have to govern from the middle, that that is where you find the greatest amount of opportunity for advancing solutions to the American people, from the middle, not from ruling from the extreme, as Chuy likes to do.”
“I’m not interested in the Squad’s talking points,” he said. “I’m not interested in sticking to the fabricated and manufactured narrative that he and his colleagues like to.”
On the Chicago City Council, Lopez was a leading critic of former Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot. He briefly ran for mayor before pulling out of the mayoral race and endorsing Paul Vallas. He has a reputation for being tough on crime and supporting the police. He also has recently proposed making parents or guardians pay fines if they willfully or knowingly allow a minor child to engage in panhandling, underage drinking or curfew violations.
Garcia, 67, is a long time progressive who has been active in Chicago politics since the 1980s. Before his election to Congress in 2018, Garcia had served as an alderman, state senator, and Cook County Board member. He finished a disappointing fourth in the mayoral race this past spring after entering the race as a strong challenger to Lightfoot. Garcia also ran for mayor in 2015, losing to Rahm Emanuel.
Garcia is a leader of a strong political movement. His supporters include state Reps. Abdelnasser Rashid (D-Bridgeview) and Edgar Gonzalez (D-Chicago), and state Senator Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago). Garcia was born in Mexico and immigrated to Chicago as a child.
Lopez, 45, is a third-generation American. His great grandfather immigrated to Chicago from Mexico, and he also has Puerto Rican, Italian and Polish ancestry. Lopez grew up on the Southwest Side. He attended, but did not graduate from, University of Illinois Chicago. He left college in his junior year to take a job with the office of special events when Richard M. Daley was mayor. Before being elected alderman in 2015, Lopez worked for 12 years as skycap for Southwest Airlines at Midway Airport. He lives on the Southwest Side with his husband.
Garica’s campaign manager, Manny Diaz, said that he is taking Lopez’s challenge seriously while also noting that Lopez has announced runs for office before and then pulled out of the race.
“This is a candidate who has run for office in the past, fundraising off those campaigns, and pulling out,” Diaz said.
Lopez said that that’s not going to happen in this race.
“I’m in this to the end,” Lopez said. “I see a path and I’m going to work hard so that everyone in this district gets to know me and that I get to know them. I’ve heard from many people who’ve said that they feel that the current leadership has left them behind, that there’s no place for fellow centrist minded individuals within the Democratic Party. I intend to prove them wrong and show them that we can have a place at the table, that we can elect a moderate individual who can focus on problems and not propaganda and I look forward to that opportunity in the weeks and months to come.”
Lopez said that Garica is more interested in ideological battles than getting things done.
“I’m concerned with results, I’m concerned with delivering for communities, I’m concerned with actually breaking through the stagnation,” Lopez said. “You can be a centrist; you can work from the middle and still represent everybody while being true to your core values.”
The 4th District runs from the southwest side of Chicago west to Oak Brook and includes much of Riverside and Brookfield and part of North Riverside. The district, which was substantially altered in the redistricting that followed the 2020 census, has slightly more suburban voters than Chicago voters. Lopez, who also serves as the 15th ward’s Democratic committeeman said that he doesn’t think the district embraces Garcia’s politics. Lopez added that he knows suburban Democratic township committeemen from his work as ward committeeman. He is hopeful that some will support his campaign.
“Politics is about relationships, and I’ve been able to build strong, positive relationships with all of my committeemen and many of my fellow elected officials throughout this district and beyond in the suburbs,” Lopez said.
Lopez said that he believes that many suburbanites will find his moderate views appealing.
“Do they want a congressman who focuses on extreme partisan politics, or do they want a congressman who’s going to focus on bringing city and suburban leaders together to focus on solutions,” Lopez asked.
Lopez added that he will be more locally focused than Garcia has been.
“Sadly, the incumbent has failed in every measure to return money back to the district, to bring home the resources, to elevate communities whether they are in the city or the suburbs because he doesn’t find it a priority to focus on that,” Lopez said. “It is easier to play the politics of Washington than it is to do the work of Washington and I think voters definitely now will have a choice on who they want to represent them, a show horse or a work horse.”
Garcia was active this summer getting out and about in the suburban portion of his district. He visited Riverside Brookfield High School and held a town hall in Brookfield in August.
“We’re going to be taking our message to the voters making sure they understand his dedication to the community, the projects that he’s helped to secure resources for in his time in Congress and some of the important work that’s still to be done,” Diaz said.
Garica has been working to develop relationships with suburban mayors of all political stripes.
“The Congressman has been able to work with all his mayors,” Diaz said. “He’s met with each of them individually. He’s helped support for their initiatives to rebuild infrastructure given his role as a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in Congress.”