(from left) Candidates Jessie Fuentes, Angee Gonzalez Rodriguez and Julian "Jumpin'" Perez are running to represent the 26th Ward. Credit: Facebook; Provided

HUMBOLDT PARK — For the first time in 13 years, Humboldt Park will have a new leader in February.

Incumbent Ald. Roberto Maldonado dropped out of the race earlier this month, leaving three candidates in the running to represent the 26th Ward, which includes Humboldt Park and parts of Logan Square, Hermosa, West Humboldt Park and West Town.

Vying for the open seat is 26th Ward Democratic committeeperson Angee Gonzalez Rodriguez, popular DJ Julian “Jumpin” Perez and Humboldt Park activist Jessie Fuentes.

Candidates Kirk Ortiz and Anthony Rivera were kicked off the ballot for not collecting enough signatures, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners ruled Friday.

The election is Feb. 28. If no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will go to a runoff April 4.

More on each candidate:

26th Ward candidate Jessie Fuentes is a Humboldt Park activist and the director of policy and youth advocacy for the Humboldt Park-based Puerto Rican Cultural Center. Credit: Provided

Jessie Fuentes

Jessie Fuentes is the director of policy and youth advocacy for the Humboldt Park-based Puerto Rican Cultural Center and co-chair of the Puerto Rican Agenda, another local group. She entered the race earlier this year, hoping to become the ward’s first queer Latina leader.

At 31, she is also the youngest candidate on the ballot.

“I think there is a shift in politics … of being able to transition to younger organizers, leaders and activists,” she said in October of 2022.

Fuentes has been a fixture of Humboldt Park politics in recent years, leading press conferences around Puerto Rican disaster relief and other Puerto Rican-focused events alongside Maldonado and other community leaders.

Fuentes grew up in Humboldt Park and has worked with neighborhood youth for years.

For a decade, she was the dean of students for two Humboldt Park schools: Pedro Albizu Campos High School, 2739 W. Division St., and Roberto Clemente Community Academy, 1147 N. Western Ave. Before that, she was the program director at youth center Café Teatro Batey Urbano, 2620 W. Division St., also in Humboldt Park.

“I am the daughter of drug addiction. I am the daughter of an incarcerated parent,” Fuentes said earlier this year. “I truly understand what it means to be at the center of some of these systems of oppression, and I also know what it means to be on the policy side and really work to create a system that undoes systems of oppression, particularly for families of color.

“My campaign will seek to address the root causes [of the ward’s issues], not just create policies that are Band-Aids.”

Fuentes has the backing of Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s executive director Jose Lopez, Maldonado’s close ally.

Fuentes’ “Friends of Jessie Fuentes” campaign brought in $17,000 as of Oct. 14, 2022, campaign records show.

Longtime Humboldt Park resident Angee Gonzalez Rodriguez is the 26th Ward Democratic committeeperson. Credit: Facebook

Angee Gonzalez Rodriguez

After an unsuccessful run in 2019, longtime Humboldt Park resident Angee Gonzalez Rodriguez is back in the field of 26th Ward candidates.

Gonzalez Rodriguez was edged out by challengers the last election cycle, but made the ballot this time around, according to The Chicago Electoral Board. She currently holds the title of 26th Ward Democratic committeeperson.

Gonzalez Rodriguez was born in Villalba, Puerto Rico but has lived in Humboldt Park since 1974. She is a medical professional with a master’s degree in legal studies.

In a news release issued over the summer, Gonzalez Rodriguez said the 26th Ward has been “experiencing population shifts and real estate development,” and residents “feel ignored.”

“The Ward lacks attention, care, and the presence of capable leadership,” Gonzalez Rodriguez’s campaign said. “A focus of Angee Gonzalez Rodriguez is to represent all members of the Ward and encourage the economic growth, assure the safety of all families, and improve all city services.”

Of the three candidates, Gonzalez Rodriguez has raised the least amount of money, with just $6,907 in her “Friends for Angee Gonzalez Rodriguez” campaign chest as of Dec. 31, 2022, according to campaign finance records.

Well-known Chicago area DJ Julian “Jumpin'” Perez is jumping into politics. Credit: Courtesy of Perez's Campaign

Julian ‘Jumpin’ Perez

Julian “Jumpin'” Perez is a well-known Chicago area DJ who has appeared on 104.3 Jams, B96, KISS FM, WBMX, WGCI and V103 over the course of his 30-year career.

After years of being on Chicago airwaves, Perez jumped into the 26th Ward race earlier this year.

On his website, Perez is described as an “entrepreneur who … knows firsthand how to build businesses from the ground up.” In addition to being a DJ, Perez said he’s owned and managed stores, a restaurant, nightclubs and a real estate company and has participated in police-led community events and youth mentoring through the Boys and Girls Club.

Organizers of My House Music Festival in Pilsen dropped Perez from their lineup in 2019 after he mocked Mexican immigrants from the stage at Festival Cubano. Perez, who is Cuban, said: “What’s the best way to get Mexicans to run? Say ICE.” Pilsen is home to a large Mexican immigrant population. He later apologized for the incident in a video.

After Maldonado announced he won’t seek reelection, Perez issued a news release saying it’s “time for a positive change in the 26th Ward and throughout Chicago.”

“The needs of working families, our children, and our seniors have too often been ignored by politicians who prioritize their own interests,” Perez said in the release. “The community deserves an alderman who truly cares about residents’ needs and works to address the key issues that affect their lives, such as reducing gun violence, improving education, promoting balanced economic development, and enhancing city services. 

Campaign finance records show Perez had $28,304 in his “Friends of Julian Perez” account, the most of the three candidates, as of Dec. 31, 2022.

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Logan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale reporterrnrnmina@blockclubchi.orgnnLogan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale reporterrnrnmina@blockclubchi.org Twitter @mina_bloom_