Keisha Jones (above) and other residents in Humboldt Park talk about the upcoming election and the issues that are important to them.
Though his chances of beating U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) in the election are slim, Republican challenger Hector Concepcion is determined that he will get the seat by focusing on groups that he claims are being forgotten by the widely known immigrant rights incumbent. Gutierrez’s congressional record, however, has shown a different story.
“I just don’t see the connection between him and the community – there is no connection,“ Concepcion said.
If Gutierrez wins, this will be his 11th term as representative.
“The issue that I confront is that people don’t think we can beat him. They think that he is unbeatable, “ Concepcion said at a local coffee shop in Humboldt Park. “That gives me more energy to talk to more people on the street.”
Dressed in a business suit and red tie, Concepcion sipped his tea and spoke Spanish and English to local residents and employees at Cafetine Panio on Division Street. He said that one of the major problems with the current Congressional representation is that there is no representation for any residents except the immigrant community. He said Puerto Ricans and African Americans are not being fully supported by Gutierrez. Concepcion and Gutierrez are both Puerto Rican.
In the 4th Congressional District, Hispanics make up 66 percent, blacks make up 4 percent, Asians are 3 percent and whites are 26 percent, according to Illinois legislative redistricting website.
Gutierrez is widely known as a supporter of the DREAM Act and was an advocate for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives undocumented young people the chance to apply for a two-year work permit.
Jay Romani, 47, grew up in Humboldt Park and is Puerto Rican. She said she plans to vote for Hector Concepcion because she feels Gutierrez is not supporting Puerto Ricans enough.
“We Puerto Ricans took Gutierrez everywhere, but where has he taken us? Nowhere, “ Romani said.
According to Gutierrez’s Congressional record, however, he has voted on and spoken out on more than four bills pertaining to Puerto Ricans here in the U.S. and abroad in the past two years.
The other group that Concepcion claims is underrepresented is the African American community.
Specifically, he says Gutierrez has not helped African Americans and other groups who have been hit hard by the housing crisis. Gutierrez voted against eliminating the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) in 2011, but his activities on other housing matters have been few.
Concepcion said fixing the housing crisis in Humboldt Park is one of his main priorities, along with education, jobs, crime and immigration reform. To fix the housing problem, he promised to create programs that educate the community on how to deal with foreclosures.
To create more jobs, Concepcion said he would reduce business taxes and implement better tax programs that provide more incentives for residents to start new businesses.
Jose Lopez, executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Humboldt Park, said that Gutierrez supports institutions through federal grants and he is a strong voice for the Puerto Rican community.
“There is no comparison between Hector and Luis," Lopez said. “Gutierrez is an acclaimed leader …. He is a spokesperson for Puerto Ricans here and abroad, and he’s been one of the major voices, more importantly, for the entire Latino community.”