PORTAGE PARK — Longtime Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) appears headed to a runoff with challenger Jessica Gutierrez.
With 93.75 percent of precincts reporting, Reboyras had 48.2 percent of the vote to Gutierrez’s 47.4 percent.
A candidate needed to get more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff against the second-place finisher.
Inside La Pena Restaurante, Gutierrez stood beside her father — former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez — and delivered an impassioned rallying cry that left some supporters in tears after forcing Reboyras into a runoff.
For too long, the 31-year-old said, the 30th Ward has not had a voice in Chicago politics.
“We deserve a voice,” she said. “This is not the end of the road.”
ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” blared through the Ecuadorian restaurant’s speakers as Gutierrez moved through the crowd to greet and hug supporters.
Omaira Figueroa, 39, wiped tears from her eyes as her sister moved throughout the room.
Growing up, Gutierrez was “the smart one,” Figueroa said. She fawned over the copy of “Animal Farm” given to the girls by their father (the book was part of the sisters’ quinceanera presents, Figueroa said).
But Figueroa never would have imagined her little sister, the bookworm, would enter Chicago politics.
“It’s a sacrifice to run for office,” Figueroa said. “Politics is hard. It’s brutal. You’re out there like no other human being. And they will scrutinize everything.”
The daughters grew up in a political house as Luis Gutierrez represented Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives. Gutierrez is now retired from politics, and his daughter has the opportunity to become the family’s next elected official.
The impact of rapidly gentrifying neighboring wards on communities like Belmont Cragin was a top concern for 30th Ward voters.
Jalanni Rodriguez, 7, sipped a can of Sprite through a red straw as she waited for Gutierrez to enter the crowded restaurant. She just lost her two front teeth — an event that resulted in $3.50 from the tooth fairy, she said. If Gutierrez becomes the 30th Ward’s next leader, Rodriguez said she’d have to find a present of her own to give the 31-year-old.
“I would feel so proud of her,” she said. “I would give her a present. I would give her a rose. I love her so much.”
Martiza Ortega, a much older resident of the ward, said Gutierrez takes time to listen to Hispanic voters — unlike Reboyras, who almost always votes in support of Chicago’s white residents, she said.
“Now we are feeling OK, because we have support,” Ortega said. “He (Reboyras) had no connection to the Spanish community. But he’s Spanish! I think Jessica is going to do a good job.”
Block Club Chicago tried to reach Reboyras on Tuesday through two phone calls and a text message. He did not answer.
During his tenure, Reboyras — who won his seat on City Council in 2003 — has closely aligned himself with policing groups and outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He voted with the mayor more than 96 percent of the time.
The incumbent also aligned himself with former Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios — a leader of the city’s old Democratic machine who lost his seat to Fritz Kaegi last year.
Reboyras told voters his re-election would ensure the success of the ward’s hard-fought-for projects, such as a new elementary school planned for Belmont Cragin and an affordable housing complex for seniors.
At a mid-February forum, Gutierrez promised inventive answers to ongoing issues with TIF funding.
Gutierrez also vowed to create a more financially transparent ward, if elected. Gutierrez was endorsed by Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Healthcare Illinois.
The majority-Hispanic 30th Ward includes all or parts of Irving Park, Hermosa, Portage Park and Belmont Cragin.