Activist Byron Sigcho-Lopez has spent much of his runoff election campaign for 25th Ward alderman highlighting donations his opponent, nurse Alex Acevedo, has received from developers. But so far, Acevedo’s biggest backers have been construction unions, election records show.
On March 15, the International Union of Operating Engineers, already a generous backer of Acevedo’s campaign, dropped another $15,000 into his fund. In all, Acevedo has taken in $24,000 in contributions of $1,000 or more from builder groups since he and Sigcho-Lopez advanced to a runoff for the seat on Feb. 26.
Those contributions account for some two-thirds of his total pool of large donations during the five-week lead-up to the runoff, according to an analysis of campaign finance records by The Real Deal.
Connections to the industry have become a cudgel in the race to replace retiring Alderman Danny Solis, who stepped down from his powerful perch as chairman of the City Council Zoning Committee earlier this year after revelations surfaced he was under federal investigation for trading support for developers for political favors.
The ward includes chunks of fast-developing neighborhoods like the South Loop, West Loop and Chinatown, as well as the entire 62-acre future site of Related Midwest’s The 78 megadevelopment. It also includes most of Pilsen, a mostly Mexican-American neighborhood where Sigcho-Lopez long has demanded Solis do more to stem the tide of gentrification.
The Sigcho-Lopez campaign has been propped up by five-figure donations from public sector unions like the Chicago Teachers Union and Service Employees International Union, plus a nearly $80,000 contribution from his wife, Loreen Targos.
But Acevedo, son of former state Rep. Edward Acevedo, has drawn support from a broad base of private-sector donors, including $69,500 in contributions of $1,000 or more from donors with ties to the real estate industry. The sum amounts to about 43 percent of his fundraising total.
Last week, a political committee representing the Chicago Association of Realtors confirmed it would send a check to Acevedo’s campaign, while the Illinois Association of Realtors is funding mailers and digital ads to support him.
“Alex has run a very strong campaign in very diverse and divisive ward,” said Brian Bernardoni, policy director and lobbyist for the Chicago Association of Realtors. “We think he will be a good partner and will hold us accountable to needs of his community, yet still show openness and willingness to work with us.”
Acevedo has also received $10,000 from the Laborers International Union of North America, $5,000 from contractor John James Construction and $3,500 from the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters.
A spokesperson for the Acevedo campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday, but the candidate wrote in a statement last month he was “proud to be endorsed by the unions, like LiUNA, Operating Engineers, Carpenters, Plumbers, which continue to offer our communities careers and living wages upon which our residents can raise a family.”
Most developers have steered clear of the race, but some have thrown in their lot with Acevedo — most notably JDL Development, which sent a $5,000 donation on Feb. 22. That followed a $5,000 personal donation from JDL CEO Jim Letchinger and his wife, Stephanie, on Feb. 8.
JDL, known as the firm behind glitzy new residential towers No. 9 Walton, Eight Eleven Uptown and the upcoming One Chicago Square in River North, does not list any 25th Ward properties in its portfolio.
Letchinger did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Acevedo also registered a $4,500 donation from Shore Property Management and a $1,000 contribution from prolific Northwest Side home builder Noah Properties, both on Feb. 20.
The candidate had pledged during a debate in January that he would not accept campaign donations from developers, according to WBEZ.
In a statement Thursday, Sigcho-Lopez spokesperson Rebecca Evans seized on the contributions from JDL and others in an attempt to tie Acevedo to the disgraced alderman he’s vying to replace.
“The developer money and PAC money flooding our opponent’s campaign tells us one thing: Alex Acevedo is picking up where Danny Solis left off,” Evans said.
Acevedo and Sigcho-Lopez have spent the months-long campaign vowing to democratize the zoning approval process for new development.
In his statement last month, Acevedo wrote that he is pushing for a new, transparent and participatory zoning and development process.
Sigcho-Lopez said he would require any new development seeking a zoning change to set aside 30 percent of units as affordable, well above the 20 percent mandated under the newest affordability pilot zone introduced for Pilsen and Little Village last year.