Danny SolisDanny Solis, 61, and a grandfather, is running in his fifth—and least fun—election for alderman. Appointed in the 25th Ward on the Near West Side by Mayor Daley in 1996, Solis finds himself in his first runoff—against a tenacious, much younger opponent, Cuahutémoc “Témoc” Morfin, 39. (For details on the race, see my interview with Morfin.
Solis is a machine stalwart with a long ties to both Daley and Rahm Emanuel—some of them via Solis’s younger sister, Patti, who met Rahm when they both went to Little Rock to work for then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton. Danny Solis sounded tired Sunday evening when he called me from his home after a long day of campaigning. He’s been campaigning hard—door-to-door, he says—since coming within a percentage point of avoiding this runoff.
CF: You admitted you didn’t work hard enough in the February 22nd primary.
DS: I was focused on governance within my ward instead of focusing on campaigning. I took it for granted—didn’t campaign as much as I should have.
CF: Tell me about your background.
DS: I was born in Mexico, came here in 1956 when I was six years old. I have four sisters and one brother. We lived at Taylor and Western. I went to Catholic schools from elementary through high school. I served in the Marine Guard reserve and went to the University of Illinois at Chicago, where I majored in education. I’m one course short of a degree. I’m married and have four children—three daughters, ages 35, 33, 30; one son, age 10. My youngest daughter and son are from my second marriage.
CF: You’re a Chicago alderman, but you have Fannie Mae on your résumé?
DS: I was appointed to the advisory council of Fannie Mae in 1992. This was back before any of the controversy [over the financial meltdown of the mortgage market]. Bill Daley, who is a friend of mine, recommended me to Fannie Mae chairman Jim Johnson. The reason I was appointed was that I had made an observation that naturalized citizens were more likely to become home owners.
CF: Were you paid for you work?
DS: No, just expenses, air fare, hotel, meals.
CF: You endorsed Gery Chico during the mayoral primary, but Rahm Emanuel didn’t hold that against you and endorsed you in the runoff. How’d that happen?
DS: Just after Mayor Daley decided to retire last September, Rahm asked me to come to Washington. We met at Rahm’s home, and he asked me to endorse him. I told him that I was already committed to [Congressman] Luis Gutierrez if he decided to run, and, if he didn’t run, I was committed to Gery Chico. I called Rahm on election night to congratulate him, and he called me back the next day and told me he’d endorse me. He respected the fact that I never attacked him during the campaign; I never criticized Rahm.
CF: Why did Gery Chico end up doing so poorly in the primary?
DS: I think he did very well. I think the surprise was how poor Carol [Moseley Braun] did. If she had gotten more of the African-American vote, it would have taken from Rahm’s ultimate numbers, and there would have been a runoff. Gery definitely beat Rahm among Hispanics.
CF: Chico endorsed you last week. Do you think he will work with Mayor-elect Emanuel?
DS: Gery did tell me he has met with Rahm in the last week.
CF: You also have the endorsement of Alderman Ed Burke. Burke was perceived as being behind the challenge to Rahm’s residency; people are waiting for war between the two of them.
DS: I think Ed Burke and Rahm will work together—they need to work together. I’ve talked to both, and they’ve expressed the same to me.
CF: Rahm has been criticized by some Hispanics, including Gutierrez, for not putting immigration reform on the top of the president’s agenda. Do you agree?
DS: I don’t blame Rahm. I think Obama and key advisers realize that immigration reform will be an issue important to Hispanics; whoever wins the Hispanic vote in ’12 will win the election. My bet is President Obama will be attentive to immigration reform in the next two years—certainly not amnesty, but the Dream Act will be a viable action.
CF: How long do you see Rahm serving as mayor?
DS: I can’t see him doing this for 22 years.
CF: How long do you see yourself as alderman?
DS: I’ll definitely serve another four years. After that we’ll see where we’re at and if I want to continue. I feel like I’m in my 40s. I don’t want anything else. It grounds me to stay in my Ward; it keeps me close to my children and grandchildren.
Photograph: Chicago Tribune