Grassroots support gets Rosa on Congressional ballot

Carlos Ramirez-Rosa’s supporters take their mission seriously.

Earnestly. Personally.

Rosa is the first openly gay Latino to serve on Chicago’s City Council. He is also the youngest current alderman and one of the youngest ever elected in Chicago (at age 26 in 2015).

Rosa, the freshman West Side alderman of the 35th Ward, announced in late November that he would vie for the Congressional seat of State Rep. Luis Gutierrez (4th) the morning after Gutierrez said he would not seek re-election.

Rosa had about a week to collect the 862 signatures needed from 4th District constituents. By the December 4th deadline, Rosa filed with forty-five hundred signatures, thanks to the help of about three hundred volunteers.

Rosa said his reaction to Gutierrez’s announcement was extreme shock.

“He has been a principal progressive who has championed so many of the issues of working families,” Rosa said in an interview with Chicagoly. “My shock was followed by encouragement. As soon as the news broke, hundreds of people on social media, email, and my cell reached out and encouraged me to seek the nomination.”

After talking with family and friends, Rosa announced on social media that he needed help circulating petitions. Just hours later, thirty volunteers walked into his office.

Rosa’s volunteers first went to C.T.A. stations and public places like grocery stores but found that despite asking all the right questions, only twenty-five percent of the signatures were actually voters in his district.

They switched course the next day and went door to door to those living in the district.

“Was I worried? Absolutely,” Rosa said. “It was a tall order. But it was encouraging to see hundreds of people coming in every day. I knew we had the capacity to get the number we needed and I was encouraged and humbled by that.”

Steve Weishampel, a resident of the Northwest Side, is one of the volunteers who volunteered to collect signatures for Rosa last week.

“A lot of people knew him and reached out to take the clipboard as soon as I said I was collecting for him,” Weishampel said.

On the other hand, others were unfamiliar with the race or even who Gutierrez was.

“The bumps in the road already in this race didn’t really rattle Carlos at all,” Weishampel said. “I think he has confidence in his platform and his message to people, and that translates into a very steady kind of personality.”

Rosa, a Democratic socialist, succeeded oft-controversial and longtime incumbent Rey Colón in the alderman race.

“I’m not afraid to take on the establishment and win. I’m not afraid to take bold stands and take on Rahm Emanuel and corporate Democratic policies,” Rosa said.

Rosa is one of eleven candidates (eight Democratic) who filed for Gutierrez’s seat, including Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia, who has been endorsed by both Gutierrez and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.

“I have the utmost respect and love for Chuy Garcia and Gutierrez,” Rosa said. “I worked for both of them in different capacities. Ultimately the voters get to decide. It’s a great thing to live in a congressional district where we have so many progressive choices.”

Other Democratic candidates include Proco Joe Moreno, nearby 1st Ward alderman; Neli Vazquez Rowland, a Gold Coast resident and president of A Safe Haven Foundation; Raymond Lopez, an alderman (15th) on the Southwest Side; and Sol Flores, executive director of Logan Square nonprofit La Casa Norte.

There are four Republican candidates who filed in the predominantly Democratic district: Ruben D. Sanchez, Jr., of Humboldt Park; Jay Reyes, of Riverside; Mark Wayne Lorch, of Riverside; and Ann Melichar, of Logan Square.

The 4th District is a fifty-two-square-mile, earmuff-shaped district that covers about seven hundred thousand people on the Northwest and Southwest sides — surrounding but not including the West Side and near west suburb of Oak Park.

It was redistricted in 1990 by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Governor Jim Edgar to create a “Latino District.” The north “earmuff” includes areas surrounding Avondale and Hermosa, the south earmuff includes suburban Brookfield, Cicero, and Brighton Park, and the thin band connecting the two includes suburban Westchester and Melrose Park.

Rosa’s 35th Ward includes portions of Logan Square, Avondale, Palmer Square and Irving Park.

In whatever capacity he serves, Rosa said he will put working families and seniors first.

“In this crisis, in this moment where Republicans control all three branches of government and working families are being targeted and disinvested in, people trust me to bring in a new generation of leadership who will boldly stand for the things we believe in,” he said.

About the author

Jamie Lynn Ferguson has lived on the west side of Chicago for nearly a decade. She serves as an advocate for anti-poverty nonprofits throughout the city, writes full-time for Catholic Charities Chicago, and is a freelance community reporter for DNAinfo-Chicago.

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