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12th District Senate Hopeful Runs Grassroots Campaign

Raul Montes Jr. as community activist

Raul Montes Jr. said Monday he is a “grassroots guy” in his campaign for the 12th District Illinois senate seat.

Montes, who spoke to a Columbia College journalism class, called himself the “underdog” in his race against Sen. Steven Landek, the incumbent. Landek held the 11th district seat, but is now running in the 12th because of redistricting.

The primary election is March 20. Since Montes and Landek are both running as Democrats, the primary will decide who holds the seat.

“He has more money,” said Montes of Landek. Montes said Landek was instrumental in getting Chicago’s Toyota Park built, which will also help promote his re-election. Landek’s lawyer has predicted Montes will lose in a landslide by an 80-20 margin.

Montes, 37, a part-time substitute teacher from Little Village, said he believes in transparency, democracy, and that everyone has the right to be a candidate. He said he wants to represent people’s needs and doesn’t want to be “a rubber stamp.”

Montes has charged Landek with what he calls “double dipping,” saying that Landek is the senator for the 11th district while also serving as the mayor of Bridgeview. Montes said that because Landek is mayor of Bridgeview, he might not be able to fully represent other parts of the district.

In a story published Feb. 10 by the Southwest Suburban News-Herald, Landek maintained he was doing nothing wrong by holding two elective offices simultaneously. Landek told the newspaper that other officials in Illinois also hold two offices.

A spokesman for Landek said in a phone interview on Monday that Montes has “not addressed any of the issues in the district. Everything he has said is very personal.” He also said Landek believes Montes is “not a serious candidate.”

Montes said he has been a community activist for four years. He said he got started in activism as a child when he began canvassing homes on behalf of an alderman in Little Village alongside his father, who was a superintendent in the city’s Streets and Sanitation Department. Montes said he also helped his dad remove graffiti and clean alleyways.

During his speech, he said funds were not distributed fairly under the Illinois Jobs Now! program, which is a $31 billion plan created by Gov. Pat Quinn in 2009. The program was designed to help revive the state’s ailing economy by creating and retaining more than 439,000 jobs during the next six years.

“I noticed that where I reside, they only gave 1 percent while other communities were being lavished,” said Montes. Montes said his community has been ignored, which motivated him to run for election.

The road for Montes to get on the March 20 ballot has been a difficult one. Montes said he has spent time in courts fighting his original exclusion.

“You need 1,000 signatures to be on a ballot. I had around 1,780,” said Montes when describing the work put in to obtain the required number of signatures. “I got all my signatures by myself.”

The signatures and his residency were challenged by Landek and his lawyer, Montes said. Montes appealed his removal from the ballot to the State Appellate Court to have his name successfully reinstated.

Looking forward, Montes said he hopes to fight the issues that affect peoples’ daily lives. Montes said he opposes the number of traffic cameras placed around city schools that are used to catch speeders or those who run red lights. He called the lights a “money grab” for the city and added that they are hurting lower-income families.

Montes also hopes to fight the privatization of city assets. He believes that it is fiscally irresponsible to sell assets such as the city’s parking meters in order to address the budget deficit.

Montes also said he favors a Chicago casino as a way to address the budget deficit. Montes said that while he is concerned with the type of lifestyle it may promote, it would be a good way for the city to raise money from tourists.

Acknowledging that running against an incumbent like Landek is an uphill battle, Montes said his outlook remains positive. “Got to stay positive,” he said. “Got to be optimistic. Basically, I don’t give up. I am going to try and prevail this time and if not, there’s always next time.”

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