CHICAGO (CBS) — Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez is retiring after 24 years.
“Today I’m announcing I won’t be seeking reelection,” Gutierrez said on Tuesday afternoon, adding that he is not “retiring” from his efforts to reform U.S. immigration policy.
Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a mayoral foe of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, will run as Gutierrez’ successor.
Reports came out late Monday evening that Gutierrez would not seek reelection, leaving his congressional seat open.
Congressman Gutierrez submitted three times the number of required signatures he needed in order to run for Congress once again. He now plans to withdraw from the race, causing his would-be successors to scramble to amass the required signatures before next week’s filing deadline.
Some may see this as true to Gutierrez fashion, as he always had a flair for the dramatics.
He was arrested outside the White House seven years ago while trying to protest deportations. It is that willingness to put himself on the line that lead some to call him the Moses of the Latino community.
“It’s hard to point to another colleague of his who’s done more to keep those issues relevant,” said Anna Gaukel, a Chicago resident.
The issues she is talking about are immigration and Puerto Rico, where Gutierrez has traveled many times in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
North Central College Political Science Professor Stephen Caliendo agrees, saying Gutierrez has become one of the Congress’ leading spokesmen on immigration and Hispanic issues.
“These are big shoes to fill,” Caliendo said. “He’s been an important voice for the Spanish-speaking Americans in particular. He does the national circuit quite a bit.”
That’s why word of the 63-year-old’s planned departure came as such a surprise to 4th-District constituents.
Gutierrez, a former cab driver and social worker, became an alderman allied with Mayor Harold Washington during the tumultuous council wars. He then moved from City Hall to the halls of the U.S Congress, where his voice could consistently be heard inside the beltway and beyond.
A voice constituents say they will miss.
“It’s shocking. He’s been in this for a long time now, so it kind of feels like it came out of nowhere, especially at a time with the community really needs him,” said Faysal Alharvi, another Chicago resident.
Gutierrez is expected to endorse Garcia on Tuesday as his chosen successor. Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa is also planning to run for the seat. He is a former Gutierrez staffer.
Anyone who chooses to run will need to get the required signatures by Dec. 4.
The Gutierrez official announcement is expected at 1 p.m. Tuesday.