Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) is mulling a 2008 run for Congress and caught a break when the Democratic National Committee gave him a national stage on Saturday, asking him to deliver the weekly Hispanic radio address.
Munoz is looking at the 4th Congressional District seat that will be vacated by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who in December announced that he was thinking of running for mayor and would step down after one more term.
"This has been on my radar screen,'' Munoz told me when we talked Wednesday.
Gutierrez was the first Hispanic Illinois sent to Congress. He represents a C-shaped district mandated under the Voting Rights Act created after the 1990 Census to empower Chicago's Hispanic population. The meandering district connects the city's Mexican-American communities on the South Side with the Puerto Rican neighborhoods on the North Side.
The district is heavily Democrat -- Gutierrez faces nominal GOP opposition in November -- and winning the primary is the name of the game.
"It's going to be an all-out brawl,'' Munoz said.
Munoz, 41, has been methodically laying the groundwork for the day when Gutierrez would step down. Munoz ran and won a seat as a state central committeeman, a political position that makes him part of the Democratic Party of Illinois.
The committeemen districts are the same as the House districts, giving Munoz an excuse to make contacts with voters outside his Little Village political base. This will help him, he said, "begin the conversation with the voters of the 4th Congressional District.''
Munoz will not make anything official until he wins re-election to another aldermanic term next year. Mayor Daley named him to his City Council seat in 1993 to fill the term left when his mentor, Jesus Garcia, was elected to the state Senate.
But Munoz faced tough opposition from Daley's scandalized Hispanic Democratic Organization, as revealed in the ongoing Hired Truck investigations and related trials and plea agreements. In 2003 Munoz faced no opposition.
Munoz came out of the Harold Washington wing of city politics, hooking up with Garcia after graduating from Northern Illinois University and landing a City Hall job.
It makes sense to start early, since it takes time to raise the big money it may take to win the primary.
Another 2008 House potential -- there will be many names surfacing for an open seat -- is Ald. Danny Solis (25th). His sister, Patty Solis Doyle, runs the massive multimillion-dollar political operation put together by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for her November bid for a second term and a possible 2008 White House run. Doyle hooked up with the Clintons when Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas and making his first run for president. She worked in "Hillaryland,'' the first lady's office in the White House for two terms.
Munoz has signed up a pollster, Global Strategies out of New York, and hired a fund-raiser, Scott Gales, who will start looking for federal money once the aldermanic election is out of the way.
Munoz was one of a group of local Democratic activists who talked with DNC chairman Howard Dean in Chicago last month, meeting with him in the offices of Dennis Gannon, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. Munoz said they talked about the pending immigration legislation in Congress.
In his radio address, prepared with the DNC, Munoz blasts the GOP for making Hispanics "scapegoats'' in the 2006 elections and for the House passing an immigration bill making illegal immigrants and the people who help them subject to felony criminal charges
On Wednesday, Gutierrez, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, announced a national citizenship campaign and naturalization workshops in Chicago and other cities on July 1.
Judy, Rod in D.C.
Looks like GOP gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka is penciling in a fund-raising visit by President Bush. Topinka travels to Washington for a Tuesday fund-raiser at the Capitol Hill Club, where the "special guests'' are House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and the eight other GOP members of the Illinois delegation.
Gov. Blagojevich heads to Washington later in the month for a funder hosted by Gutierrez and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.).
The target audience for both "reformers'' -- D.C. lobbyists and special interests.
Why? Because that's where the money is.