Gery ChicoGery Chico has had a great couple of days since announcing that he’s running for mayor. Rich Daley—for whom Chico worked as chief of staff, president of the board of Chicago Public Schools, and, currently, chairman of the City Colleges of Chicago board—sang Chico’s praises Wednesday night on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, describing his staffer as “a wonderful public servant” and “closer to me than anyone else” (the latter in response to a question about the mayor’s well-known friendship with Rahm Emanuel.)
I called Chico, who also manages his law firm, Chico & Nunes, late on Thursday. Here, some personal tidbits, his thoughts on Rahm Emanuel, his take on the assessor’s race, and more.
• Chico has lived 52 of his 54 years in the city—he and his first wife moved to Buffalo Grove in the ’80s, but they returned to live in Budlong Woods. He was raised on the Southwest Side in McKinley Park, attended a parish school (Our Lady of Good Counsel at 35th and Hermitage, since closed)—and Kelly High School at 42nd and California. He attended the University of Illinois at Chicago as a commuter student and then Loyola Law at night because he had to work days. Today, he lives with his second wife in a condo at Jackson and Michigan.
• His three daughters all attended public elementary and high schools. The youngest is a sophomore at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.
• Chico, who is half Mexican-American (his mother is of Greek and Lithuanian descent), is not impressed with his likely rival for the mayor’s office, Rahm Emanuel, because of Emanuel’s lack of action on immigration reform. “I understand Rahm was the architect of that [putting immigration reform on the back burner],” he says. “I think we have done nothing but to punt on a key issue.”
• He adds that he doesn’t have much of a relationship with Emanuel. “He hasn’t called me about anything, no animosity toward him, seems like a nice guy.” He adds that he respects Rahm for being “straightforward,” by leaving his White House chief of staff job before embarking on the race for mayor. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, another major figure in the race, has not done that, Chico says. “[Dart] ought to be straight with the voters, drop your candidacy for sheriff and run for mayor.”
• Chico mentions that he’s getting support from brothers Dean and Paul Vallas—Paul worked closely with Chico in the ’90s when Chico was Daley’s chief of staff and Vallas was budget director and, again, when Vallas was running the public schools here and Chico was president of the school board. Dean Vallas is also leading the Democrats for Brady effort in the gubernatorial race, but that does not raise red flags for Chico. He points out the mayor’s race is nonpartisan—but adds that he himself is supporting Democrat Pat Quinn over Republican Bill Brady.
• He will not say whom he supports in the assessor’s race between independent Forrest Claypool and Democrat Joe Berrios. “Neither candidate has called me and asked me for my support, so I’m not going to tell you.”
• Chico says he received no tip from Daley that he was going to announce his retirement. Part of the reason Chico decided to jump in, he says, is “because my phone was ringing off the hook” with people urging him to run. (Other would-be mayors have said the same.) Chico declines to give the names of his callers, or the names of his donors. “I don’t want to give a name or two and slight the hundreds of people who have signed on to help us.”
• He says that a successful mayoral candidate will need $4 million to $ 7 million, and claims that the money’s coming in so quickly, he’s had to “bring on additional staff to help with fundraising.”
Photograph: Chicago Tribune