This is part of a series of interviews Windy City Times is running on LGBTQ+ candidates in the 2023 municipal elections taking place Feb. 28.
The last time Chicago Ald. Raymond Lopez talked with Windy City Times (in 2022), he was running for a very different office: mayor.
However, he is now running to be re-elected alderperson of the 15th Ward. Some have speculated that Lopez made the move because another Latine candidateCongressman Jesus "Chuy" Garciaentered the mayoral race.
This time, Lopez talked with Windy City Times about the real reason he is running again for his current post, why he is endorsing Willie Wilson in the mayoral race and more.
Windy City Times: The last time I talked with you, of course, you were running for mayor. I'm a little stumped as to why you're now running for alder again. I would think the best way for you to deal with the current mayor would be to replace her, given your history.
Raymond Lopez: Well, you are 100% correctthat the best way to deal with the current mayor is to replace her. That's exactly why I left this race. At the time I was running, there were 13 candidates in this race and what I saw was a shift in the political landscape that was creating a pathway for her survival. It was creating a doorway for her to make it to a runoffso we needed to pare down the opposition and coalesce behind someone who can make it to a runoff or keep her out of the runoff.
After talking with a few candidates, it was clear that everyone was hell-bent on staying in so I did the adult thing and stepped back. I said, "While I would love to be mayor, Chicago needs to be rid of Lori Lightfoot."
I'm focusing on being a force on the City Council. With all the retirements going on, it looks like I'll be number 15 in seniority; I'll be the most senior Latino and LGBTQ person on the City Council, which could benefit both communities and help the next administration. I know how to call a spade a spade and help move the city forward.
WCT: It was also interesting that you decided to support mayoral candidate Willie Wilsonsomeone who has supported Donald Trump in the past and who refused to turn over his tax returns, saying that was "too personal." Why endorse him?
RL: Dr. Wilson and I were at opposite ends of the political battlefield four years ago; in those four years, we've actually managed to build a friendship and a working relationship together. Even before the pandemic, he and I were discussing ways to break apart city contracts and try to put individuals to work in the city's South and West sides. He also became essential in providing PPE [personal protective equipment] to our essential workers, like the police and fire departments.
He's been a man and a leader. He's been in my ward and other communities numerous times when it wasn't the political season. I need a mayor who's going to work with me and basically pick up the phone.
WCT: Could you not find common ground with any of the other mayoral candidates?
RL: There were some commonalities but I picked my [candidate] based on not what have offered but what they have donewhat's been done for my community. Everyone's promising to do things now. I often tell my residents that you have to judge candidates by what they've done, not what they've said.
WCT: Some people thought you would support Chuy Garcia.
RL: Wellsurprise, surprise. I think there were two levels of thought: those who thought I would just go with Chuy (Latino with Latino) and then there were others who thought I'd go with Paul Vallas, with him being more conservative or more police-leaning. But I'm a maverick and going my own way.
WCT: I was looking at the campaign disclosure forms on the Illinois State Board of Elections website. When someone donates a large amount of money to your campaignlike Willie Wilson giving $6,000, Chicago Wolves co-owner Donald Levin giving $150,000 or I Grow Chicago's Robbin Carroll giving $25,000how beholden do you feel to that donor?
RL: I do not and they do not think that they own me. Those individuals [you mentioned] are very good friends of mine and they believe in my mission. There is no expectation that I'm going to jump through hoops because they gave me $25,000 or $250,000.
They've been donors to me almost through my entire tenure; Donald and I are huge animal advocates, and he does a lot to help with vaccinations and microchipping. Robbin and I have worked on many issues with building community, such as in Englewood. We're all fighting for the same things and they're putting their money where their mouth is.
WCT: Also, when I talked with you last time, you said the biggest issue for LGBTQ+ Chicagoans involved race. How do you begin to solve that problem?
RL: Well, nothing has changed in that regard and I still believe that, when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community, it's a very hard and difficult moment when we see a Black lesbian as mayor who completely forgets the communities of color within the rainbow. Simply putting brown and black stripes on a rainbow flag is not enough; you have to stand up for the community in every neighborhood.
We also have to make [the AIDS initiative] Getting to Zero a priority and reducing transmission. The most basic things, like free condom distribution, have come to a screeching halt. Our youths are still performing sex work and there are not enough drop-in centers for LGBTQ youth who have nowhere to go. We know that we're not making sure our young community members have help when they need it mostdespite the fact that we have the most LGBTQ+ members on the City Council and a Black lesbian mayor. We should be ashamed of ourselves. But we can be hopeful that, even though she will be gone, the next City Council's [LGBTQ+] Caucus steps up to the plate and hold the mayor [accountable] for what's going on. There are issues that the youth and seniors are facing; we need to fight for them.
WCT: Tell me one thing you really like about your ward and one thing you really dislike about it.
RL: What do I love about the ward? That's very easyI love my people.
I've been walking every dayand I've lost about 15 pounds since starting the mayoral campaignand I've seen good, decent, hard-working individuals who just want someone to give a little love back to them. That goes from Canaryville to Chicago Lawn and everywhere in between.
What I don't like about my ward is the fact that this remap has completely gerrymandered the ward and divided communities. I can already see signsfor example, in Chicago Lawn and Gage Parkwhere there's only a half-mile square section. I know that there are gang and drug issues that are now just on the outside of my borders; I won't be able to address the safety of my residents unless my neighboring aldermen on either side address the problems in their wards. Either I'll have to put pressure on my colleagues or I'll have to do their jobs for them as well. With this remap, I wish my colleagues had thought more about neighborhood cohesion than political survivability.
WCT: If you could ask the current mayor one question and she had to answer it truthfully, what would that question be?
RL: Other than "Why are you here?" [Laughs] That's a very good question. You know what I would ask? "Do you believe what you're saying?" There have been numerous times I've watched this mayor talk out of her rear end out about everything that's going onwhether it's violence, crime, supporting Black and Brown communities. She talks a great talk but I don't know if she believes it. If she said "yes," that would go a long way to explaining why we're in the state that we're in. If you believe that everything is fine, then that just shows how seriously disconnected you are from reality.
Raymond Lopez's campaign website is www.withray2023.com .