Cuahutémoc “Témoc” MorfinCuahutémoc “Témoc” Morfin is making his second run at unseating incumbent Danny Solis in the 25th Ward, which encompasses parts of the Near West Side—Pilsen, Chinatown, University Village, Little Italy and Tri-Taylor.
Morfin, 39, who also challenged Solis in 2007, managed to force the 61-year-old alderman into a runoff. Although Solis supported Gery Chico for mayor—and Chico won the ward—that didn’t stop Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel from quickly throwing his support to the 15-year incumbent Solis, who was appointed by Daley in 1996. And Chico paid Solis back today by endorsing him—Chico’s first public appearance since being squashed in the mayoral primary. Morfin got a key endorsement of his own this week—from Miguel del Valle—but the big guys, including Ald. Ed Burke, are with Solis.
Solis just missed winning outright on February 22nd. He got 49 percent of the vote to Morfin’s 28. Should Morfin win, it’ll be one of the true upsets of the 14 runoffs to be decided April 5th. Here, a look at what makes Témoc run, as told to me in recent phone interviews
CF: Tell me about your family.
CM: We came here from Mexico. We’ve been here about 30 years, right here in the ward. I’m one of 11 siblings—seven girls, four boys.
CF: Did you go to public school?
CM: All the way through—grammar school, middle school in the Ward, and then high school at Benito Juarez, also in the Ward. After high school, I went to Northern Illinois University and graduated in 1996.
CF: Married, children?
CM: I’m not married. I do have a child who is 11 years old; never did get married—we share joint custody.
CF: Since college, what have you done?
CM: I introduced the first ever concept of a workout and nutrition center here in the ward. I was also working as a juvenile probation officer. I took a leave to run in 2007, and after that election, I started working with a brother of mine who has a construction company, establishing more clientele for him.
CF: You’re often described as a community organizer. What does that mean?
CM: I started a not-for-profit organization called Community Action with the objective of getting young people involved with cleaning up the community—sweeping, picking up debris from sidewalks, alleys. I was elected twice to a local school council. I’ve been very active in [trying to get] this coal-fired power plant, which sits in the 25th Ward, to clean up its act. [Morfin supports the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, which would mandate emission reduction. Solis—who has taken more than $50,000 in campaign contributions from the plant’s owner over the last eight years—opposed the ordinance, but changed his mind after the primary. He explained that he did so because his constituents showed concern about respiratory illnesses.]
CF: Why are you running?
CM: Here in the 25th Ward, we have been forgotten, neglected, left without a voice in the City Council. Solis has voted 100 percent in favor with the mayor. [The correct percentage is 98, as reported in a University of Illinois study released last week.] Emanuel is supporting mostly incumbents. These are aldermen who I’m sure he knows he can manipulate, and he can have their vote each time, on any policy that comes up in the City Council. It’s clear as water.
CF: Did you try to get Emanuel’s endorsement?
CM: Numerous times, the day after the election, called to congratulate him on his victory. To this day I have never received a response from him or his campaign. The least he could have done was return my phone call and give me a little explanation as to why he’s going with Solis, but, again, it’s politics as usual.
CF: You say that you didn’t support any of the mayoral candidates in the February 22nd primary. But from talking to you, it seems your heart was with del Valle.
CM: I can tell you that the best man for the job in my opinion would have been del Valle. I can tell you that my family and people I know were pushing for del Valle. He has always been a very transparent elected official; he’s been a people person, and we share the same principles.
CF: Were you surprised to hear Solis say, “I’m going to have to work a little harder,” after he knew he’d be in a runoff with you?
CM: He’s been our alderman for 15 years. He hasn’t worked hard enough? That’s pretty offensive to me as a constituent—a slap in the face.
CF: You have the support of the Chicago Teachers Union and two of the biggest transit worker unions. Your opponent has the Service Employees International Union, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Chicago Federation of Labor, Emanuel’s New Chicago Committee (almost $30,580 contributed in polling and mailers), and Greg Goldner’s For a Better Chicago. [Goldner managed Emanuel’s victorious 2002 run for Congress.] You said that, post primary, you’ve raised about $19,000. How are you going to win this thing?
CM: We’re knocking on doors, running a simple but strategic campaign. Money doesn’t buy everything. The endorsement that truly matters to me is the endorsement of the voters.
Photograph: Chicago Tribune