PILSEN — A 25-year-old former teacher is running for alderman in the 25th Ward on the city’s Southwest Side — a seat long held by veteran Ald. Danny Solis.
Pilsen native Hilario Dominguez, a former teacher at Pablo Casals Elementary School in West Humboldt Park, announced Thursday that he is running to represent “working class families” in the ward. He’s running with support from local political organization Unite25.
“It’s time the people of the 25th Ward have a representative that will fight for all of our neighbors and not big money interests,” he said, calling for “transparency, accessibility and accountability” in the ward.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Solis (25th) declined to say whether the longtime alderman will run for re-election, but said that he is “focused on continuing to work” in the ward. Solis, who has represented the 25th Ward for more than two decades and chairs the city’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards, is a key ally to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“Pilsen was recently recognized as one of the best neighborhoods in the world and Ald. Solis is focused on continuing to work hard on behalf of all the communities of the 25th Ward to strengthen public schools, keep residents safe, and continue to grow Chicago’s economy for everyone,” spokesman Tom Bowen said in an email.
Dominguez, who is running for alderman full time and has worked as a community organizer helping families facing eviction with The Resurrection Project, said Solis was inaccessible to the community and called the longtime alderman “a failing leader who has really sold out.”
Other millennial candidates winning “against big money and big candidates” inspired Dominguez to run, including 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who recently made headlines when she won the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th congressional district defeating incumbent Joe Crowley.
“I truly believe that at this point our neighborhood’s working-class identity and the creative identity that has helped [shape] Pilsen’s identity in the 25th Ward won’t survive another four years,” Dominguez said.
Dominguez was born and raised in Pilsen and his family has a long history in the neighborhood — his grandparents and parents emigrated to the neighborhood from Michoacan, Mexico in the 1970s.
In June 2017, Dominguez called on the developer of Pilsen’s largest vacant site to dedicate more apartments in the project for affordable housing. That project has since been stalled.
Latino residents in Pilsen are increasingly being priced out of the neighborhood. From 2000 to 2010, Pilsen’s population plummeted by nearly 15 percent. The biggest drop — 41 percent — was in the number of families with children living in the neighborhood.
“The heart of why we’re looking at problems with gentrification and displacement is the fact that we do not treat housing as a human right,” said Dominguez, a Whitney Young and John Hopkins graduate. “We are going to put people first and stop looking at …housing as a commodity.”
Solis was appointed to the 25th Ward seat in 1996 by former Mayor Richard Daley and formerly chaired City Council’s Hispanic Caucus.
Five challengers ran to unseat Solis in 2015, but the longtime alderman narrowly avoided a runoff, capturing 51 percent of the vote. His closest challenger, Pilsen Alliance Executive Director Byron Sigcho, had 18 percent.
Sigcho, who began a leave of absence from Pilsen Alliance this month, said he will spend the next few weeks meeting with community members before deciding whether he will run again for the 25th Ward seat.
“Development has not been equitable [under Solis],” Sigcho said. “We need a different and more equitable vision for the neighborhood.”
In addition to Sigcho, Solis was challenged by CPS teacher Ed Hershey, activist Jorge Mujica and financial adviser Roberto “Beto” Montano, his former chief of staff, in the 2015 race.
In 2011, the 25th Ward race went to a runoff, but the longtime alderman ultimately defeated challenger Cuahutemoc Morfin with 54 percent of the vote.
The 25th Ward includes parts of Pilsen, Chinatown, the West Loop, Little Italy and Heart of Chicago.
Dominguez will host a campaign kick off from 6-8 p.m. Aug. 1 at La Catrina Cafe, 1011 W. 18th St.