40th Ward alderman's race: O'Connor slams opponent Vasquez over 'homophobic, misogynistic' rap lyrics

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Longtime 40th Ward Alderman Pat O'Connor is bringing his opponent Andre Vazquez' past as a battle rapper into the campaign. Running as a progressive, Vasquez is trying to end O'Connor's 36-year City Hall career.

For almost four decades, O'Connor has represented the North Side's 40th Ward. The longtime and powerful alderman says he was unsure about seeking another term, but decided it was necessary, so he could oversee important projects, like a new Metra station.

"When you've been in office as long as I've been, I think people are always tempted to think of other options," O'Connor said.

The other option is 39-year-old Andre Vasquez. A son of Guatemalan immigrants, Vasquez is trying to ride the progressive wave of change at City Hall, calling for more transparency and community input. Vasquez says the days of clout and machine politics have come to an end.

"Our ward is changing. I'm confident I'm the candidate that can represent the changing ward and look at the challenges with fresh eyes," Vasquez said.

O'Connor, who recently became chairman of City Council's Finance Committee, has been the floor leader for Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel. O'Connor makes no apologies for being a loyal foot soldier. He said it has allowed him to get things done in his ward.

"We are the safest neighborhood in the City of Chicago, not only statistically, but actually. We have some of the best schools, every school has received major capital projects," O'Connor said.

While the alderman defends his work, he is also on the attack, bringing up his opponent's past. Vasquez spent his 20s as a battle rapper using lyrics Vasquez admits were a mistake and horribly offensive.

"At some point isn't character part of the issue as well, so I think there isn't much room for homophobia, for misogyny," O'Connor said.

"As a person who felt inadequate in my own skin, I thought denigrating others would make me feel bigger and there is no excuse for that," Vasquez said.

Vasquez said he is sorry for the lyrics and hopes voters accept his apology.

O'Connor said if voters decide it's time for him to go, he believes it's not the result of what he has or hasn't done in his ward, but the result of changing times in the country right now.
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