Luis Gutierrez losing Latino votes after support of Mayor Emanuel, challenger says

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Spanish radio host believes he can unseat Luis Gutierrez after he says Latino voters are becoming disenchanted with the longtime congressman.

Javier Salas is running for the 4th District Congressional seat and says voters are ready for a change.

Gutierrez has not had a serious challenger, primary or general election, in decades. Salas says there is reason for a different story in 2016.

The Spanish language radio host and former advisor to Governor Pat Quinn says Gutierrez, the 11-term incumbent, is in trouble among Latino voters because last spring he supported Mayor Rahm Emanuel over Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in the city election.

"It is perceived in the community, something like it's a betrayal. And people, when I talk to them, they always call him a traitor because he didn't side with Chuy Garcia," Salas said.

Since 1993, Gutierrez, of Puerto Rican descent, has represented the 4th, a district snaking through Latino neighborhoods in Chicago and Cicero. The congressman has gained a national reputation as a leader in the fight for immigration reform.

"I really believe that he has done a good job in Congress in keeping the conversation going on immigration reform," said State Sen. Iris Martinez.

Spanish-language radio host Vicente Serrano says conversation without actual reform is not enough.

"There is a sense that Gutierrez hasn't delivered, that Gutierrez has not been effective," Serrano said.

On the North Side, where Latino state lawmakers held hearings on Illinois budget issues, most still backed the incumbent despite his endorsement of Mayor Emanuel.

"Sometimes you make those decisions based on your intelligence, right?" said State Rep. Luis Arroyo. "You make those mistakes, you gotta live by them. But I don't think it was a mistake."

But at least one would not commit.

"My hope is that whomever it may be that we do come together," said State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez.

Salas says six out of every ten Latino voters in Chicago supported Mexican immigrant Chuy Garcia last spring. He says they'll remember who Gutierrez supported when they go to the polls next spring.

"He didn't side with the people he says he defends all the time and I guess he was wrong but that's his life," Salas said.

Congressman Gutierrez did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
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