(Chicago, IL) — January 4, 2010. Hispanic activist Rudy Lozano, Jr.’s challenge to State Rep. Dan Burke (D-Chicago) for the House seat Burke has held for 19 years is drawing extraordinary old and new media coverage for a state legislative race.
But the Lozano-Burke battle is no ordinary state House contest.
Burke, Chairman of the all-important Illinois House Executive Committee, hails from a storied Irish political dynasty on Chicago’s south west side. Burke’s father Joseph Burke and his brother Edward Burke have held the aldermanic seat of the 14th Ward for a combined 55 years. Alderman Burke, Chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, is the council’s most powerful member.
Lozano, 33, is the son of the slain political activist and ally to former Mayor Harold Washington, Rudy Lozano, Sr. Lozano, Jr. represents represents the insurgent, anti-establish wing of the Democratic Party.
In addition to Lozano, there are two other Hispanic candidates in the race: Martín Meza-Zevala and Rene Diaz. So far, these candidates have kept, let’s say, a “low profile”. Whatever votes they draw, they will undoubtedly draw from Lozano.
The district that Burke, 58, represents is anywhere between 66% to 85% Hispanic. That ethnic composition prompted Burke to be one of founder’s of the House Hispanic Legislative Caucus. And Burke has been a leading champion on a broad array of Illinois immigration issues, such as state recognition of consulate identity cards, driving privileges for undocumented immigrants, religious services for detained immigrants, etc.
And it was both the ethnic factor and the collapse the of Hispanic Democratic Organization under a raft of federal indictments and convictions that prompted Lozano to challenge Burke.
But the Lozano-Burke clash is no ordinary primary challenge. It represents a clash between generations, ethnic groups, independent versus regular Democrats, political philosophy, and political dynastic heritages. It’s an intriguing clash.
And the clash also brings political intrigue.
Carol Marin, picking up on Greg Hinz‘s earlier reporting a couple weeks ago, yesterday also noted that House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) has involved himself in Burke’s race and gave Springfield lobbyist Victor Reyes, a former top aide to Mayor Richard Daley, the boot.
Reyes’ lobbying operation has been doing more than lobbying lawmakers and donating to their campaigns. It’s has also been running their campaigns, devising strategy, producing direct mail pieces, managing its press, etc. And in the process, Reyes has been making himself very, very influential with those lawmakers and worrisome to others, according to legislative sources.
“Victor’s operation has raised eye-brows,” said one lawmaker. “He’s created a mini-House Democrat campaign operation and it’s been, let’s say, noticed.”
Regarding Speaker Madigan’s involvement, Burke said, “… Speaker Madigan [recommended] that he get involved. I trust and defer to the experts.”
And no one is more expert at Illinois House races than Speaker Madigan.
Burke, who has not had a primary challenge in 19 years, is in full-battle mode, criss-crossing his legislative district knocking on doors. He’s shaken 1,787 hands by his own count. But Burke is no stranger to his voters. He is renowned for his legislative attention to his constituents.
Lozano claims to have raised $100,000 so far. Burke entered the race at the beginning of the summer with $277,000 on hand and his fund-raising machine is in full-swing. Burke won’t lack for dough. He’ll have oodles. And he won’t lack for political support either.
Burke has won the backing of diverse groups and leaders, such as AFL-CIO, Personal PAC, Planned Parenthood, Illinois Federation of Teachers, activist Juan Rangel, and State Senator Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago), and Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno and other Hispanic leaders.
And, of course, there is Alderman Burke and Speaker Madigan.
If you’re a gambler, betting against Dan Burke in his re-election campaign would be a sucker’s bet.
If you’re a reporter, ignoring the race would be even worse.