By Darryl Holliday
February 24, 2015
LOGAN SQUARE — In an upset win, 26-year-old challenger Carlos Ramirez-Rosa has unseated incumbent Ald. Rey Colon to take the 35th Ward seat by a wide margin.
With all precincts reporting Wednesday morning, Ramirez-Rosa had 67 percent of the vote to Colon's 33 percent, making it the only 2015 race in which an incumbent lost outright without a runoff.
While Ramirez-Rosa's age was thought to be a hurdle early in his campaign, the incoming millennial alderman, one of seven vying for seats on City Council this year, turned his relative inexperience into a strength and hit the streets to meet constituents in person.
The former congressional caseworker for U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) will be the first openly gay Latino alderman on the City Council.
"We won a resounding victory for our neighborhood and our community," Ramirez-Rosa told a cheering crowd before thanking 13-year incumbent Colon, the Service Employees International Union, the Chicago Teachers Union, Reclaim Chicago and his supporters.
Colon, who was seeking a fourth term, was acquitted earlier this year of DUI charges filed last summer.
Ramirez-Rosa was joined on stage at The Levee, 4035 W. Fullerton Ave, by state Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-39th) and a crowd of friends and family around 8:30 p.m.
The incoming alderman then claimed his victory in the ward, which represents portions of Logan Square, Avondale, Hermosa, Irving Park and Albany Park.
"This is not about switching one alderman for another; it was about a movement," Ramirez-Rosa said. "We aspire to more — a city that uplifts working people. That's the message the 35th Ward sent today. We proved tonight we can begin the first step of that progression."
The incoming alderman has promised to bring participatory budgeting to the ward, provide "community-driven" initiatives on zoning and development, fight to reform tax increment financing and be a "hands-on" presence in the neighborhoods.
A traditional Puerto Rican meal of lechon asado, rice with pinto beans, baked chicken and maduros was served to guests by the candidate's aunt and uncle in honor of Ramirez-Rosa, who is half Mexican, half Puerto Rican.
"We kicked butt," a proud Norma Ramirez said of her nephew's victory. "It's the right person for the right time. This has always been a work in progress, and it will continue to be because he's only 26 years old."
According to Ramirez and her husband, Ramon Ocasio, Ramirez-Rosa will bring his "rhetorical virtuosity" and "intellectual depth" to bear in an effort to create a new City Council.
"This is what it takes," Ramirez said. "There'll be no rubber-stamping Rahm Emanuel, and you can quote me on that."
Guzzardi expressed a similar sentiment after Ramirez-Rosa's acceptance speech.
The win is "another step down the road," Guzzardi said, noting parallels between his upstart win in the 39th District and Ramirez-Rosa's rise in the area.
"We share a vision for what the community needs to be — the vision he's presenting is really powerful," Guzzardi said.
Ramirez-Rosa's victory kicks off a new landscape for Logan Square, especially in terms of development, according to community activist Noah Moskowitz of Somos Logan Square.
"Now we have leverage for the 35th Ward — every fight now is on a fundamentally different terrain," Moskowitz said. "Colon was literally acting as an agent of the developers, and now it's the opposite."
The next step is a citywide effort, Guzzardi said.
"There are critical wards remaining," he said, adding that he'll be campaigning for progressives in the upcoming aldermanic and mayoral runoff April 7.
"We could use a little debate," Guzzardi said. "I think that's a very healthy thing, and the people in this room are not about to put their feet up on the couch."
Check out our full 2015 Aldermanic Election Guide for more info on the candidates in this and other ward races.