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Ambrosio Medrano: Supremely Screwed

By Kevin Robinson in News on Feb 26, 2007 2:50PM

2007_2_screwed.jpgThe story of hope and redemption on the South Side continued Friday, as the news that the Illinois State Supreme Court had ruled that both Ambrosio Medrano and Virgil Jones are ineligible to run for alderman. Even more bizarre is that because the court's ruling makes no mention of Wallace Davis, a former 27th Ward alderman and candidate in the 2nd Ward, and Percy Giles in the 37th Ward, the city election board has no authority to disqualify them, despite Davis' 1987 conviction and Giles' conviction in 1999. In his press conference Friday, Medrano criticized the law for blocking felons from running for local office but not state office.

The race in the 15th Ward has been a zoo, with the current alderman, Ted Thomas, retiring, and with a staggering 12 candidates running for the vacancy, including two write-in candidates. While Medrano has spoken openly and remorsefully of his conviction, Virgil Jones has maintained his innocence, claiming that authorities framed him. Bitterly denouncing this ruling, he told the Chicago Tribune that he believes that all of his rights were restored when he finished his sentence.

The race in the 25th Ward has been dramatic, too. In many ways, this race is as much about the future of the 25th Ward as it is about the power struggle going on in the Mexican community down there. With Danny Solis' eye on Luis Gutierrez's congressional seat (and Luis hoping to play a role in a Democratic White House), and his perceived vulnerability after his falling out with the pro-Daley Hispanic Democratic Organization (which has seen diminished influence in the wake of federal corruption probes) over those ties, Medrano saw the opportunity to take him on and made his move. At the same time, Martha Padilla, who is connected to a developer that has had his own struggles with Solis, threw her hat in the ring. Aaron del Valle and Joe Acevedo, two stalking horses backed by the HDO, are probably giving Solis a real headache.

At this point, Medrano has made it clear that he is appealing to the US Supreme Court, but he says that doesn't resolve the immediate issue of what happens Tuesday. On Saturday he announced that he is endorsing Temoc Morfin for 25th Ward Alderman. Like Medrano, Morfin has been running on gentrification and how zoning and TIF funding gets doled out in the ward. The real question in the 25th now is whether or not Medrano can fire up his base and turn out the vote in big enough numbers to force Solis into a runoff with Morfin.

We've been unsure about what to make of Medrano. There's a lot of money at the end of that ballot box, and whoever comes out of this race the winner will have his hands on a nice-sized piggy bank. Whether or not Medrano has learned his lesson, we have to give it to him — he's a pro. He turned his campaign around quickly, and made a smart, swift endorsement, given his situation. If Morfin doesn't come out of this race a winner, Medrano has made the first move in building an alliance that he can use as a platform to continue to challenge Solis. And if Morfin does win? Well, Medrano will clearly have a hand in the shape of the future of the ward.