Miguel del Valle

Miguel del Valle doesn’t have much money—peanuts compared to Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico, and way less even than Patricia Watkins and Carol Moseley Braun.

When I asked him yesterday afternoon if there would be runoff on February 22nd, he answered, “My guess is Rahm is going to buy one of the spots; as for the second, I hope I’m that person.”

Were del Valle to win—he hit seven percent in the last poll—it would count as one of the upsets of any election anywhere. Should the inevitable occur and he’s out on the 22nd—the former state Senator (20 years in Springfield and the first Latino in the Illinois General Assembly) and the current City Clerk (the first Latino there, too)—will surely pop up soon in another election. He is the preferred candidate of progressives, winning endorsements from the likes of Quentin Young and Tom Geoghegan.

Our Tuesday conversation focused first on politics, but then on his four children and his wife.

CF: I watched you debate Emanuel, Chico, and Moseley Braun Thursday night at the WGN-TV studios. Looking back, which of your responses do you think most resonated with voters?
People were telling my campaign staff that they agreed with me when I described the oppressive climate in the city—people feeling that they are being hit hard with tickets. Boot on cars after two tickets, red light cameras increasing—originally intended to protect pedestrians and prevent auto accidents, now used to generate revenue.

CF: What would you do about the parking meter deal?
I want to renegotiate it. I’m supporting the IVI-IPO [Independent Voters of Illinois, Independent Precinct Organization] lawsuit; I would work with that organization to redirect the suit away from the city and toward Morgan Stanley. (The bank holding the company that led the partnership that bought Chicago’s parking meters.)

CF: How’s fundraising going?
Every day we’re out there doing meet and greets and raising small amounts. We’re not raising millions and millions. I said from the beginning that I won’t take campaign contributions from any group contracting with the city. I challenged the other candidates to do likewise, and no one took me up on it.

CF: You were appointed City Clerk by Mayor Daley in 2006 [after former City Clerk Jim Laski got in trouble, later pleading guilty to taking $48,000 in payoffs and serving 11 months in prison]. Did you have any conversations with Daley about your plans to run for Mayor?
I haven’t had any discussions with Daley—not one. I attend every City Council meeting so I see him, but just informal chit-chat. But before Daley announced in September that he wasn’t running, I had decided that I would run for Mayor once Daley retired. I had a conversation with him in August, prior to his surprise announcement. I told him I had completed work in modernizing the City Clerk’s office and I wanted a new challenge. He made no mention to me that day of his intention to resign. Little did I know…. Once the Mayor made his announcement, I made mine the day after. I was the first one in.

CF: How do you serve as City Clerk and run for mayor?
I’ve taken all my furlough days—twenty-five—and all my vacation days.  I’m in and out of the office. I have a deputy, a right-hand person who works very hard, a retired police officer who was hired by Jim Laski.

CF: Has anyone—Gery Chico, for example—asked you to drop out?
Months ago, Gery called me a little after he entered the race, suggesting we have coffee together. My response was, `Yeah, love to, but I want you to know if it’s about me leaving the race, then it’s going to go nowhere. At no time has Gery Chico asked if I would consider leaving. And no, I haven’t heard from him again about that cup of coffee.

CF: You went to public school; did your four children go also.
A combination of public, private, and parochial. I have three sons and a daughter. One of my sons went to Gordon Tech, and one to Lane Tech. Another son and my daughter went to public elementary and to Latin for high school.

CF: Tell me about your wife.
Lupe is a full-time volunteer in the campaign office. We met at Tuley High School [now Roberto Clemente]. We’ve been married for 40 years. [Lupe is a Mexican-American. Miguel came to Chicago at age four with his family from Puerto Rico; both of his parents worked in factories on the West Side.]

CF: Three of your four kids graduated from college, and a couple went on to grad school—and that’s not to mention the two who graduated from the exclusive and expensive Latin School. How did you manage all those tuitions?
Scholarships and a lot of loans I have to pay back. For 20 years in the state Senate, I had no other source of income except my legislative salary. Total family income was my legislator’s salary. Many people treat a legislator’s job as part-time; I treated it as full-time. [Unlike many legislators who have a legal practice on the side, del Valle is not a lawyer; his BA and MA from Northeastern University are in education and guidance.] 

CF: Where did you raise your family?
Combination of Humboldt Park and Belmont-Cragin where we now live—in a bungalow. In Humboldt Park we lived in a gray stone two-flat. I sold it to my oldest son so that I could have money to pay for college for two of the kids. My son lives there with his family and rehabbed it into a single family home. Before that, I rented out the apartment to other members of my family. Because it was family, the rents were cheap. 

CF: Do any of your children want to hold elective office? 
: My daughter majored in political science at Yale. She is now a first year student at Stanford Law, but she’s more interested in the judiciary. On my first visit ever to Stanford, in the law school building there were portraits of judges who had come out of Stanford. [Supreme Court Justices William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor both graduated from Stanford Law.] Yes, I could imagine her portrait on the wall there someday.


Photograph: Chicago Tribune