Ray Lopez running for mayor of Chicago; City Council critic to give up seat to challenge Lightfoot

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Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) speaks during a Chicago City Council meeting in June.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th), one of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s most outspoken critics, is giving up his City Council seat to run for mayor and, as he put it, “save Chicago” from violent crime.

“Chicago, I’m in,” Lopez tweeted Wednesday, hours before a scheduled noon news conference to announce his candidacy.

A follow-up press release quoted Lopez as saying, “I love my city and, like most Chicagoans, I am sick and tired of watching Chicago flounder at the hands of a rudderless ship. The time is now to provide our great city with the compassion and leadership it deserves. I’m in, and I hope Chicago will join me.”

A formal announcement is scheduled for later Wednesday.

No member of the City Council has ever been elected mayor of Chicago. The only two acting mayors — Michael Bilandic and Eugene Sawyer — were chosen by their colleagues after the deaths in office of Richard J. Daley and Harold Washington.

Both Bilandic and Sawyer lost special elections to fill those vacancies.

Lopez is likely to face even longer odds.

A former skycap for Southwest Airlines, he is not a household name outside his ward, which includes Brighton Park, Gage Park, New City, West Englewood and Back of the Yards.

Nor has Lopez demonstrated the ability to raise millions of dollars in, what is expected to be a multi-candidate race.

But what Lopez does have is the support of demoralized Chicago Police officers and a track record of standing up to both Lightfoot and to the violent street gangs who terrorize his constituents. 

His home and his ward office have been repeatedly targeted by vandals apparently determined to send him a message.

Lopez, who is gay, was elected to the council in 2015.

His political backbone was on display during the civil unrest triggered by the death of George Floyd that devolved into two devastating rounds of looting in the summer of 2020. 

Lightfoot unleashed a profanity-laced tirade against Lopez when he dared accuse her of being caught flat-footed after the first round of looting that spread into South and West Side neighborhoods after downtown was belatedly sealed off.

At the time, Lightfoot further accused Lopez of “illegally” taping her May 31, 2020 phone call with aldermen upset about looting and mayhem in their wards and “leaking” the part that included a profane exchange between them.

One year later, Lightfoot accused her political nemesis — indicted Ald. Edward Burke (14th)—of being the heavy hand behind Lopez’s call for a special City Council meeting on violent crime.

The mayor said then she firmly believed that Burke “and his minions” orchestrated the meeting to stir the pot and “create chaos.”

“Do I think this is about public safety? No, I do not. Are we gonna be there to answer questions so residents are assured? Absolutely, we will. But let’s face the facts here. This is political shenanigans and you can figure out who’s behind it,” the mayor said then.

“Burger King Ed is still alive and well. And he is messing around and trying to create chaos. He can’t do it in a way that makes him public. But he’s doing it through puppets and trying to orchestrate chaos. We’ve seen this picture show in ‘83, ‘84, ‘85, ‘86. But guess what? Having seen that nonsense, it’s not happening again.

At the time, Lightfoot never once mentioned the Council Wars that saw Burke and his cohort then Ald. Edward R. Vrdolyak (10th) lead 29 mostly white aldermen in thwarting then-Mayor Harold Washington’s every move.

And she never once said the name “Burke.”

Nor did she say that her reference to “Burger King Ed” stemmed from the alleged shakedown scheme in which, the federal prosecutors say, Burke threatened to hold up renovation of a Southwest Side Burger King until the owners hired his private law firm to handle their property tax appeals work. It was near that same Southwest Side Burger King that Laquan McDonald was shot by a Chicago police officer, the now-convicted Jason Van Dyke.

“Burger King Ed and his minions a guy who’s an indicted criminal we’re not gonna let him stand in the way of getting work done for the people of this city. You can be sure of that,” she said

 “We’re not going to let people who just think that the City Council is political theater get in the way of doing the work on behalf of our residents. Shame on them if they think that they can ’cause that’s not gonna happen.”

Lopez maintained that his seatmate Burke had nothing to do with orchestrating the meeting “other than being asked to sign on” to the call.

“No matter how much Lori Lightfoot tries to emulate Donald Trump with deflection and diversion, the fact remains that violence is what is driving us together. Her inability to keep Chicagoans safe is why we are meeting,” he said at the time.

“For her to continue to try and throw out the race card, the sex card and, now, the boogey-man Ed Burke card all in an attempt to ignore reality shows just how far off she has become.”

Lopez said he was “thoroughly insulted” at Lightfoot’s suggestion he was doing Burke’s bidding.

“She’s implying that someone like myself a young Latino is incapable of coming up with these ideas on my own. Constantly questioning my intelligence to do such things without being puppeted by someone else,” he said then. 

 

 

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April 6, 2022 at 09:58AM

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