With that short statement on Twitter, Chicago Ald. Raymond Lopez announced his attempt to become the city's next mayor. A fierce critic of current Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Lopez (who, like Lightfoot, is part of the LGBTQ+ community) has said, "My core principles will be simple: safety, rebuilding our economy and supporting our first responders and city employees that serve the taxpayers of Chicago."
Recently, Lopez talked with Windy City Times about a variety of issues, including his appearances on Fox News, Lightfoot and self-realization.
Windy City Times: When you announced your mayoral run, you compared Chicago to a "rudderless ship."
Raymond Lopez: Yes. Chicago is a city without leadership; it's both without a rudder and just floating aimlessly on the water. We don't have a guiding star that we're following and we're just adrift.
That's how it's been for the last three years. We've been responsive and reactive, as opposed to being aware of where we want to go and being proactive.
WCT: Did you support Lori Lightfoot when she ran for mayor?
RL: In the general race, I supported Gery Chico; I believe in supporting your family and friends. After he didn't make it to the runoff, I endorsed no one. Either way, it was a historic election, with the city's first Black, female mayor. I figured my residents could make up their own minds, and I would work with either candidate.
WCT: You said you were willing to work with her. When did things turn?
RL: I think the turning in our relationshipand with a lot of other aldermenhappened during her inauguration. That was an event for all of us, and there we werecelebrating the next chapter in our history. Then, the new leader of the city turned around and called us all corrupt; that left a bad taste for all of us. You can see pictures of us; our facial expressions changed in, like, 2.2 seconds while my family's in the audience. I know [that statement] played well with the audience.
Despite that, I still offered to work with herbut that was an offer that was seldom accepted. But I let her and her team know that if they wanted an off-the-books talk, to let me know. I believe we met twice during her tenure, for an hour; I told her that I thought she was misusing her mandate and missing an opportunity to truly transform the cityeven suggesting we could pass aldermanic prerogative changes on zoning if there was a comprehensive citywide plan that we could all commit to. Unfortunately, that was not a track she wanted to go down. And that was a pattern that repeated itself until March 17, 2020, when the city shut down because of COVID. Unfortunately, we were never able to build a relationship that had us working together.
WCT: I'm curious about who your political role models are.
RL: There have been local politicians I've grown up withit was a different dynamic. I grew up in an era of precinct captains knocking on doors and politicians holding ward nights. I got my political chops working with Bill Lipinski in the 23rd Ward on the Southwest Side. It was those kinds of political leaders who showed and taught me the value of what professionals refer to now as "retail politics." It wasn't retail politics to me; it was being a good persongetting to know my residents and their issues with the ward.
WCT: I know that crime is an important issue for you. That includes speed bumps in your wardwhich at least one of your residents (a friend of mine) complained about.
RL: [Laughs] You mean the "Lopez mountains." They have affected crime because people have to slow down so much that if they don't, their vehicles get seriously damaged.
My ward had sustainable policies in place that shifted once the new administration and superintendent changed the dynamics of the neighborhood, compromised the integrity and didn't use technology to the best of their ability.
Speed bumps aren't for every neighborhood. But it's a tool that addresses the issue directly. Infrastructure is a public-safety issue.
WCT: Every mayoral candidate who's been elected has had one thing in common: political allies.
RL: [Smiles] I thought you were going to say that they're short.
WCT: [Smiles] Not quite. They had political allies, and you almost seem like a political island. Without naming anyone, do you feel you have allies?
RL: I do. I feel that what I represent is an elected official who can move within various circles. I don't belong to one particular group. I can work just as easily with my Democratic socialist colleagues as I can with my more conservative colleagues from the Southwest and Northwest sides. Being able to go from one group to the next and deal with everyone in between, I personally think, is how that body should work.
Too often, we're focused on "This is my clique" or "This is my caucus." I think that's why many people find me to be somewhat of an enigmabecause I just don't stick with one group. There have been times when I've stood with the Black Caucusfor example, when they addressed the issues in the cannabis industry and zoning; I was the only Latino who stood with them. But I'll also stand with the more liberal members regarding police accountability and oversight. Or I'll stand with the more conservative members regarding lawsuits for gangbangers who are trying to game the system.
Every one of those groups is separate from each other. I'm involved in the issues, as opposed to the politics behind them.
WCT: Your mention of conservatives leads me to Fox News, where you've appeared on shows with Tucker Carlson, for example. What led you to appear there?
RL: Well, I've appeared on Fox News quite a few times. They asked for an interview, and I granted it. You asked for an interview, and I granted it. We need to answer to everybody.
It's ironic that it's the two-year anniversary of when the mayor said that she'd only speak to certain journalists. That's the right way to go about things, and it's been mentioned that [what Lightfoot did] was more of a stunt. The best way to deal with media is to be open and discuss things with everyone. It's not healthy for journalism. When I win, I want to be open and available on a weekly basis to all reporters, even if it's a hybrid model.
WCT: I'm curious about what you think of the job Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx is doing.
RL: I didn't support Kim Foxx for re-election. But it would not be my position to criticize Kim Foxx when my own house is in disarray. We need to get our house in order. We need to get our police department in order. When I know the officers are doing everything correctly and by the bookwith a different superintendentthen I can deal with the shortcomings of Kim Foxx and the justice system. To [criticize] her now would be a mistake and would come off as political deflection.
And to be fair, I called for a special meeting to allow Kim Foxx the opportunity to address the city council. I invited her to come down and tell us what we needed to address. Unfortunately, the administration didn't want to hear from her. [NOTE: Lopez, through his campaign consultant, provided what was called "the transmittal submitted by Alderman Lopez and several of his colleagues for a special meeting requesting reports from the State's Attorney and Chief Judge Timothy Evans on their unified effort to address the crime, looting and safety of residents throughout Chicago."]
And she [Foxx] was on the Zoom call for the special meeting that we called. The mayor refused to acknowledge her and [ended] the meeting so she'd never have the opportunity to present, which, in my opinion, was a lost opportunity.
WCT: What do you think is the biggest issue for Chicago's LGBTQ+ community?
RL: Our world has changed so much since we were kids. I remember what it was like sneaking up to Boystownor "up there," as I was on the Southwest Side. Now, so many youths don't have the same challenges we had, especially among their peers.
But I think one of the challenges for the LGBTQIA+ community is that we still have issues of blatant racism within that community. There is life within our community outside of Northalsted; I don't care how integrated we arepeople still fail to recognize that fact. I'm a testament to that fact, and we don't address that issue. Are we really that rainbow flag, or is it just a token flag to make people feel good? Again, it's been a missed opportunity by this mayorwho is a Black lesbianto highlight that fact.
Even when it comes to HIV/STI prevention, the money overwhelmingly goes in one direction and to one part of the city; we need to address the entire city. There's no advocacy group in most Latino neighborhoods to address LGBTQIA+ Latinos. There are sex workers on the street with no resources to support themat least, not of the same caliber you see on Belmont and Halsted.
We know how to walk and chew gum at the same time. And if you're a mayor who says you're a part of our community, you need to focus on the needs of that community, like rising crystal-meth use in our constituencies.
If you don't bring it up, no one knows about it. If no one knows about it, no policy will address it. Then things go from being a snowflake to being an avalancheand then we won't know what to do. And that's something that's been the hallmark of this administration from day one.
WCT: This last question is something I've asked a variety of people: What have you learned about yourself these past two years, with the pandemic everyone has dealt with and the racial awakening some people have had?
RL: This pandemic taught me a number of things. One, I don't do well in isolation. It's hard for an extrovert to not be around people; my husband, on the other hand, has always wanted to be a hermit and was in seventh heaven. He didn't have to deal with people and didn't even have to go grocery shopping; he just bought things online. I guess that's why I'm the politician and he's not. [Smiles]
But aside from that, I learned that it's a very humbling experience when you cannot help someone, despite your best efforts. When the whole world shuts down and people need help, you have to figure out how to say, "I don't know how to help you." That's a very impactful moment for people.
I remember the early days [of the pandemic], when the great toilet-paper run happened. What do you do with a senior who's on her last roll and is afraid to go to the grocery store? I figured that, if the world's gone crazy, then what the hellI started emptying my own office. I'm a packrat, so I started doling out whatever I had: toilet paper, Lysol.
What I learned is that you can't always help everyone. But what you CAN do is exude … that you're trying to helpthat you recognize their problems. If I can't do it, we have to find someone who can help.
Politicians have a knack for sugarcoating problems and not telling you the truth about what's happening. You need to lay it all on the line.
But I also learned that you never know how much you truly miss people until something like [the pandemic] happens. One of the hardest things I had to deal with was learning about my residents who had passed onand sometimes learning four, five, six months after they died. You can't really help the community deal with the grief that they never got to address.
Some people have become more robotic and desensitized since the pandemic started. I think I've become more sensitive, to be honest. People have seen the public persona of Raymond Lopez, the gangbanger fighter; now, they're seeing a more [vulnerable] side.
Raymond Lopez's campaign website is www.raymondlopezchicago.com .