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Wilfredo De Jesus On Business, Race & Being The Underdog

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Wilfredo De Jesus

Wilfredo De Jesus talks to CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine in a one-on-one interview. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Of the 20 candidates who’ve filed their petitions to run for mayor of Chicago, several are quite well-known. The others, without the big names or big money, are banking on grassroots campaigns somehow catching fire.

Among them, a Humboldt Park minister who CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine introduced many of us to for the first time six weeks ago: Wilfredo De Jesus.

“We’ve learned there’s a lot of hurting people out in the streets, meeting folks in train stations and bus stations, so that’s what keeping us moving forward,” said De Jesus in response to what he has learned in the past six weeks about running for mayor.

He may be new to us, but not to the 4,000 members of New Life Covenant Ministries. Or to those who live in his shelters for the homeless and apartments for single mothers.

“If they want a career politician, it’s full of them, they can choose. But if Chicagoans want someone that’s new with a new voice, and want to change the city to a new direction, then I’m their candidate,” said De Jesus.

While he doesn’t even register in most recent mayoral candidate polls, he says his website has already gotten 300,000 hits.

His plan to cut the deficit though isn’t as specific as some other candidates.

“We got to cut the fat,” said De Jesus. “Let’s find the fat in the city budget, we know it’s there.”

As for revenues, he says the city must become more business-friendly.

“I want to be able to make sure that these small businesses, which we believe is the backbone of the city of Chicago, we got to make it friendly and easier,” said De Jesus. “And if we can do that, then not only will we bring revenue but we bring jobs to our city.”

De Jesus is in a crowded field, including Latino candidates Miguel Del Valle and Gery Chico, who both vow they’re in it till the end.

“I think the city of Chicago is in need for a new mayor, and a Hispanic mayor,” said De Jesus.

When asked about possibly splitting the Latino vote, De Jesus said, “I would prefer that we would hear their [Del Valle and Chico] concerns and they would step aside and allow me to move forward, because they’ve been around and nothing’s happened.”

Does De Jesus have a chance? Well, lightning could strike.

But even though there’s some baggage he’s carrying — comments about homosexuality from his sermons — this is probably not the last time we’ll be mentioning his name in the context of city politics.

To see Jay Levine’s complete one-on-one interview with James Meeks, check out the video below.

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