A Clinton Corner in Obama's Home Town
By Kari Lydersen
CHICAGO -- Chicago may be Barack Obama's back yard, but at a Latino Educators for Hillary dinner in the mostly Mexican neighborhood of Pilsen Wednesday night, attendees had harsh words for him.
"Arrogant," "impulsive," "hypocritical," and "anti-immigrant" were just some of the insults lobbed at Obama at an event hosted by Danny Solis, the Pilsen alderman and, yes, brother of Hillary Clinton campaign manager Patty Solis Doyle. (Solis himself described Obama as "Okay, but not ready yet.")
Both the Clinton and Obama camps are vying hard for the Latino vote in the week leading up to Super Tuesday. And both candidates also have Chicago connections that make Illinois, with one of the country's larger Latino populations (5 percent of the electorate) and a long history of powerful Latino politicians in Chicago, look like fertile ground.
It was a Solis family affair in Pilsen, with Alderman Solis joined by his daughter Maya, a Clinton campaign staffer, and his ex-wife Luz Maria Solis, a Clinton campaign volunteer and early childhood program administrator.
While the Solis family has a great deal of sway in Pilsen, Obama has significant support in Chicago's Latino community as a whole. He is backed by a coalition of Latino elected officials including Rep. Luis Gutierrez, whose district includes Pilsen, city clerk Miguel del Valle and various aldermen. Some Latino community leaders liken Obama's rise to the Latino movement which played a significant role in electing Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington, in 1983.
Many of the about 25 teachers and school administrators at Fogata Village restaurant had campaigned for and voted for Obama during his U.S. Senate campaign, but became disillusioned with him since.
Rosalba Priego, 51, said her two daughters volunteered for Obama's Senate campaign but found him and Michelle Obama "arrogant and unapproachable."
Alvaro Obregon, 41 and a staffer at a community organization, also campaigned for Obama in the Senate race but said Clinton impressed him more on "the issues." He said he tried to convince his 76-year-old mother to extend her vacation in balmy Mexico for the winter, but she was determined to return to Chicago to vote for Clinton.
Teresa Langa, a librarian in the hardscrabble, Mexican immigrant Back of the Yards neighborhood, described Obama as "anti-immigrant" because he voted for the Secure Fence Act calling for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border -- though Clinton also voted for the bill. She also blasted Obama for not attending the city's two large immigration marches, though he did in fact march and speak at the May 1 march.
A number of attendees felt the media is unfairly beating up on Clinton, and lionizing Obama in an effort "to prove we're not racist," in the words of education researcher Macarena Correa, 29. "You look at the pictures they post of her, her face is distorted. He always looks perfect."
"It's okay to attack a woman, but don't go anywhere near any other minorities. They're all walking on eggshells," added Langa.
Tomas Revollo, an educational and political consultant who hosted the event, said Obama lost his vote during his kick-off in Springfield, Ill., when he characterized his campaign as one of the new generation.
"Well, I'm 57, does that mean he doesn't want me?" Revollo said, standing near a photo mounted on the wall showing Clinton embracing an older woman in a restaurant. He said he almost fainted when he got a call from legendary labor organizer and Clinton supporter Dolores Huerta earlier in the week.
The Clinton campaign has at least five Chicago events scheduled in the six days leading up to Super Tuesday, most of them in or around Pilsen. Meanwhile, Latino politicians supporting Obama, including Gutierrez, are holding strategy meetings and press conferences of their own. They describe Obama's close ties with pro-immigrant legislators and community leaders and his involvement with Latino groups during his time as a community organizer.
This hasn't impress Revollo, a former Bobby Kennedy devotee who was equally unmoved by the Kennedy endorsement of Obama. "The Latino vote is for the taking, and Obama's not taking it," he said.
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