In a House district that is 51-percent Latino, state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano said Tuesday he has lined up backing from the best-known Latino politician in Illinois.
Saviano (R-Elmwood Park), who is running against Democrat Kathleen Willis for the 77th House District, plans to announce an endorsement by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) during an event Tuesday at Saviano's Wood Dale campaign office.
"The leaders of the community know what I've done, and I've been working to get that message out," Saviano told the Chicago Sun-Times.
"This just solidifies my whole record with the community," Saviano said of Gutierrez' endorsement.
Messages left with Gutierrez and Willis' offices weren't returned Tuesday.
The move follows a dust-up involving state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Cicero), who disrupted a community forum geared toward Latino voters in Melrose Park Saturday by standing on a chair and shouting his disdain for Republicans. A police officer later escorted Sandoval from the gathering.
Late Monday, Sandoval kept up his anti-Saviano haranguing with the release of a typo-filled, poorly punctuated campaign statement.
"Much in the same fashion as Congressman Sensenbrenner, Governor Brewer and Sheriff Arpaio of Arizona, the Saviano campaign this week have (sic) threatened, intimated (sic) and suppressed my right to promote a Democrat - Kathleen Willis, in the 77th District which includes: Unincorporated Leyden Township, Stone Park and Melrose Park," said Sandoval. "The Saviano campaigns (sic) engaged in having a biker follows (sic) and spew racial slurs, to (sic) calling local law enforcement to intimidate."
On state ethics disclosure forms, Sandoval identifies himself as a contractor for the village of Melrose Park, whose mayor, Ron Serpico, has endorsed Willis after initially backing Saviano in their House race. Serpico has refused to return a phone call to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Saviano said the catalyst for Gutierrez' endorsement was "all this Sandoval stuff."
The congressman is "livid because he said, 'Skip, you've been so great to our community. I've got to step up. Even though you're a Republican, I have to say, this is wrong,'" Saviano said.
Saviano was among 29 House co-sponsors for a 2011 state law that set up a public fund that would route privately financed college scholarships to as many as 95,000 children of undocumented immigrants.
Saviano also was among 28 House co-sponsors of 2007 legislation that narrowly passed his legislative chamber allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver's certificate in lieu of a driver's license if they presented proof of auto insurance and paid a fee. The measure died in the Senate.
Willis has received nearly $380,000 between July 1 and last weekend from the Democratic Majority and Democratic Party of Illinois campaign funds, which House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) controls. Saviano has derided Willis in a cable television commercial as an "obedient Madigan duckling."
Despite Madigan's influence in the race, Saviano has the backing of traditional Democratic-supporting labor unions like the Illinois AFL-CIO, Illinois Education Association, Illinois Federation of Teachers and AFSCME Council 31. He also got former GOP Gov. Jim Edgar's backing last week.