In Illinois’ newly created 3rd Congressional District aimed at adding another Latino legislator to the U.S. House of Representatives, progressive state Rep. Delia Ramirez soundly defeated Ald. Gilbert “Gil” Villegas (36th) and two other challengers.
Ramirez held onto a strong steady lead all evening, besting Villegas’ 66% to 24%, with 96% of the 551 precincts counted. Iymen H. Chehade, a college instructor involved in the House Ethics probe of U.S. Rep. Marie Newman, D-LaGrange, trailed with 6% and registered nurse Juan Aguirre with 4% of the votes.
“I’m in awe that a community can come together with grassrootsfundraising, with no corporate PAC contributions,and elected a working class Latina from Humboldt Park,” Ramirez said.
The district where 4 out of every 10 people old enough to vote are Latino is rooted on the city’s Northwest Side and expands across northern suburbs from Addison, Bensenville to West Chicago to Winfield.
A jubilant crowd greeted Ramirez, 39, chanting her name as she entered her election party. Supporters had created a salsa song they blasted outside a polling place earlier Tuesday: “Delia, she’s ready,” goes the song, “ready to interrupt the corruption.”
People crowded to hug and take photos with Ramirez soon after her campaign declared victory. The election party included other progressive Democratic candidates including Congressman Jesus “Chuy” García.
Flanked by her parents and husband, Ramirez said she saw her victory as a sign that Latinos — not just in Chicago but also in the suburbs — want to embrace progressive policies and leaders.
“People want a good government person with a proven track record,” she said. “And someone that’s going to be accessible and available. Someone that sees their humanity in Wheaton the way I see their humanity in Belmont Cragin.”
She said her parents, who immigrated from Guatemala, prayed over her Monday night recalling their journey to the United States.
“You are our American dream,” Ramirez recalled her parents telling her as her eyes grew watery.
Ramirez could be one of the few leaders in Congress living in a mixed immigration status household. Her husband, who has Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections, was unable to vote for her. She told the crowd her priorities in Washington will be the environment and immigration reform.
Villegas, a 51-year-old former Marine who’s served in City Council since 2015, called and texted Ramirez to concede, campaign spokesman Bill Gorski said.
“Congratulations to @Delia4Congress,” Villegas wrote on Twitter. “We need voices in Congress that will look out for working people and fight back against right wing efforts to strip us of our rights. I’m confident she’ll represent us well.”
The Northwest Side alderman had planned to join his supporters Tuesday evening in Belmont Cragin, where people gathered around a television broadcasting election returns and classic salsa music played.
Ramirez is backed by some of the most far-left groups in the Democratic party, while Villegas counts as his supporters more moderate progressives including House members from swing districts.
The primary battle in the 3rd is seen as part of a larger proxy fight by groups wanting to nudge Democrats further to the left, and the two front-runners were boosted by about $2.8 million from outside groups.
Illinois’ 3rd district leans heavily toward the Democrats so now that Ramirez has won the heavily Democratic district, she’s expected to handily defeat the Republican candidate, Justin Burau, who ran unopposed in the primary.
In the northwest suburban 8th district encompassing Elgin and Schaumburg, U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi was readily fending off Democratic challenger Junaid Ahmed, 71% to 29% with more than 80% of the 474 precincts counted.
On the Republican side, where five candidates emerged, Chris Dargis was leading the pack Tuesday evening with 32% of the votes. He was followed by Peter Kopsaftis with 19%, Phillip Wood and Karen Kolodziej with 18%, and Chad Koppie with 13%.
Two Republicans were vying to oust U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Chicago, for control of the 5th District that wraps around Chicago from the lakefront on the city’s North Side to west suburban Downers Grove. Commercial realtor Tommy Hanson held a strong lead over Malgorzata McGonigal, 55% to 45% with 98% of all precincts counted.
In the 9th district covering Chicago’s North Side and northern suburbs and the north suburban 10th district, neither party faced a contested primary. That means voters already know that come November, longtime incumbent 9th district Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Chicago, will face Max Rice, and Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Deerfield, will defend his 10th district seat against Joseph Severino.