UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — Ald. Gilbert Villegas will face closest challenger Lori Torres Whitt in a runoff next month in the battle to represent the dramatically redrawn 36th Ward.
Villegas held 46.4 percent of the vote to Torres Whitt’s 30 percent in the Feb. 28 municipal election. Challenger David Herrera came in third with 16 percent of the vote. Candidate Jacqueline Baez was in fourth with 7 percent.
Candidates needed to win more than 50 percent of the vote to win the seat outright. In races where there was no majority-winner, the top two vote-getters will square off April 4.
The new 36th Ward, widely derided as an example of extreme gerrymandering, runs from Ukrainian Village all the way up Grand Avenue to Montclare.
More about the candidates:
Gilbert “Gil” Villegas
Villegas is seeking his third term in City Council. A Dunning resident, he’s spearheaded initiatives in City Council to create a universal basic income program and to reinstate its Office of Veterans Affairs
Villegas also endorsed a plan to reopen the closed 13th Police District in West Town, which was closed in 2012 as part of a citywide consolidation of police resources.
Villegas touted his legislative efforts and high-profile endorsements in an interview with Block Club this week. Gov. JB Pritzker, Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García are among the officials who have endorsed Villegas.
“This is about experience vs. inexperience, and right now is not the time for on-the-job training,” Villegas said. “We need someone who is going to be able to hold the executive branch in check. I’m going to be working for the people of the 36th Ward and my opponent will be working for Brandon Johnson if he’s elected.”
Villegas said he won’t endorse Paul Vallas or Brandon Johnson for mayor as they head to a runoff because alderpeople “need to be independent and be a check on the executive branch.”
After a ward map Villegas and other Latino Caucus members backed last year failed to advance, he slammed the new 36th Ward boundaries, saying it “disenfranchises” Northwest Side neighborhoods and “disrespects” the Latino community.
But Villegas has since embraced what could be part of his new territory. In September, he opened what he called a “satellite ward office” on Chicago Avenue to connect residents with city services.
“Whether you live in … Ukrainian Village or Belmont Cragin, we’re going to provide a service. And that’s what we’ve done where I’ve been alderman in that current area where I have five different neighborhoods, same thing” in West Town, Villegas said in September.
Villegas unsuccessfully ran for Congress last year in the newly created Illinois 3rd District, losing to state Rep. Delia Ramirez. He also served as Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s one-time floor leader, a position he quit in early 2021.
Leonor “Lori” Torres Whitt
A Humboldt Park resident, Torres Whitt has been a Chicago Public Schools teacher for the past 20 years. She currently works as a Spanish teacher at Monroe Elementary in Logan Square.
Torres Whitt is backed by the Chicago Teachers Union, United Working Families and mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson, among other groups and officials.
In an interview with Block Club, Torres Whitt said education, public safety and access to city services would be her top priorities as alderperson. When approaching public safety solutions, she’d work to strike a balance between direct intervention and long-term investments, she said.
“We need someone who is going to represent the working families of Chicago. That’s now who’s leading the 36th Ward right now,” Torres Whitt said. “When I think about my platform, it’s about the values I’ve lived my entire life. I’m a kid from Humboldt Park, I’m raising my kids within a mile of where I grew up. I need a Chicago they can be proud of.”
Torres Whitt plans to join the City Council’s Progressive Caucus if elected.
Torres Whitt previously said she’d also partner with local elected officials to open satellite ward offices so residents can access city services across the 8-mile 36th Ward.
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