A political battle is emerging between candidates running to represent the southwest side in Springfield. State senator Celina Villanueva—a vocal leader for immigrants’ rights—is being challenged by Pilsen resident and first-time candidate Javier Yañez.
In early March, Villanueva was invited to speak about her campaign at a meeting of the 25th Ward Independent Political Organization (IPO) in an effort to win their endorsement. Sources told the Reader that IPO members were not satisfied with some of her responses.
The following morning, Yañez—himself a member of the 25th Ward IPO—launched his campaign for state senate. He was able to get enough petition signatures to get on the ballot by the March 14 deadline for established parties.
Yañez is 25th Ward Alderperson Byron Sigcho-Lopez’s chief of staff. Sigcho-Lopez denied encouraging him to run against Villanueva.
Yañez was born and raised in Pilsen and was elected to Orozco Community Academy’s Local School Council in 2020 as a community representative, but will not be seeking reelection to the LSC. Yañez says that if he’s elected to the state senate, he wants to tackle issues related to public safety and economic development.
Villanueva, a Little Village resident who represents the 11th district in the General Assembly, is running for reelection in the newly drawn 12th district, which now includes Pilsen, Bridgeport, and Chinatown, in addition to Little Village, Brighton Park, and McKinley Park.
“I believe the 12th district deserves independent, accountable, and elected leadership and that’s a big part of why I’m running,” Yañez said.
His primary challenge reveals growing friction among progressive Latinos on the southwest side. Villanueva is a close ally to Chuy Garcia, a long-time community activist who has represented the area for decades as an alderperson, state senator, Cook County commissioner, and now U.S. congressman. Garcia’s progressive coalition on the southwest side is growing amid a power vacuum created by the federal indictment of the once-most powerful Democrat in the state, former house speaker Michael J. Madigan.
Garcia endorsed Villanueva in the state senate race. Yañez previously worked as an aide to Garcia when the congressman was a Cook County Board commissioner.
The General Assembly is divided into two legislative bodies, with 59 members in the state senate and 118 in the house of representatives. Both groups work closely with the governor to pass legislation and decide how your tax dollars are spent.
In 2018, local party leaders appointed Villanueva to fill a vacancy in the house, and she kept her seat in the following election. She was appointed to the senate in 2020 after former state senator Martin Sandoval resigned amid a corruption probe.
Villanueva has been a vocal leader for immigrant workers’ rights. Earlier this year, she introduced a bill that would establish stronger penalties against employers who violate workers’ rights to a 24-hour rest day each week. Recently, Villanueva introduced legislation that would allow noncitizens to vote in school board elections across the state.
“I’m somebody that values community and the belief that we need to fight to have our voices heard and that’s why I’m running for reelection,” Villanueva said. “I feel like I have a long list of accomplishments and I still have a lot more to do.”
The 2022 Illinois Democratic primary is on June 28. The general election is on November 8.
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via Chicago Reader
April 15, 2022 at 11:02PM