Two candidates vying to replace Edward M. Burke as 14th Ward alderman said Thursday they are joining forces in hopes of being better positioned to defeat the 50-year City Council veteran who was charged last week in a federal corruption investigation.
Jose Luis Torrez, 33, a City Colleges student adviser, said he is dropping out of the race and endorsing Tanya Patino, a 28-year-old civil engineer who previously received the backing of U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
Torrez, who in August became the first candidate to announce he was taking on Burke, had built an enthusiastic campaign team through his past relationships as a community organizer and as a campaign volunteer for Garcia and other progressive candidates.
But Garcia’s decision to endorse Patino significantly narrowed Torrez’ path to victory, particularly his ability to raise money.
In a City Hall press conference, Torrez said Garcia persuaded him to drop out in favor of Patino during a conversation last week.
“We talked about uniting our forces because it’s important to make sure that we win,” said Torrez, who will become co-chairman of Patino’s campaign.
Torrez said the only promise he received is to “get rid of Ed Burke.”
Torrez’ withdrawal leaves three candidates running against Burke: Patino, lawyer Jaime Guzman and Irene Corral, a Garfield Ridge resident regarded by the others as a straw candidate put up by Burke.
But Corral may soon be removed from the ballot. A hearing officer for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners is expected to rule soon on whether she submitted enough valid signatures. A preliminary finding indicated she was significantly short of the 473 needed to stay on the ballot.
Patino also faces a ballot challenge, but a hearing officer already has said he will issue a decision in her favor.
That would leave a three-way race, theoretically increasing the chances of an outright winner emerging from the balloting Feb. 26. A candidate needs to win more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.
With the help of Torrez’ field operation, which he said includes 100 volunteers, Patino said she hopes to win Feb. 26 without a runoff.
Burke has run unopposed in 10 of the last 11 elections, but he was expected to face a difficult re-election in 2019 even before he was charged last week with attempted extortion for allegedly shaking down the owner of a Burger King franchise to obtain business for his law firm.
The population of the 14th Ward is now 88 percent Latino, a demographic trend that contributed to the Democratic primary loss last year of state Rep. Dan Burke, the alderman’s brother, by newly elected Rep. Aaron Ortiz.
Patino served as an area coordinator for Ortiz, who is also her boyfriend. She took a brief timeout from her campaign Wednesday to attend his swearing-in ceremony in Springfield.
Patino, a University of Illinois graduate, said she worked five years for Peoples Gas before quitting to devote full time to her campaign. She also has touted her work as a volunteer youth soccer coach in the neighborhood.
Earlier this month, Garcia endorsed Patino for Burke’s seat, but he has yet to back up his support with any financial help.
Guzman, the other remaining challenger, also came up through Garcia’s 22nd Ward political operation and his Little Village community organization, later working as an aide to Garcia when he became a Cook County commissioner.
Guzman declined to comment on the Patino-Torrez alliance except to say, “I’m still in.”
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