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How Miguel del Valle Snagged the Spotlight

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How Miguel del Valle Snagged the Spotlight

Miguel del Valle had a briefing book for last Thursday’s WGN debate, but he set it on the floor and decided to “just talk about what I was feeling people are talking about instead.”

When the candidates were asked about the city’s revenue collection, del Valle busted out with a rant that connected with every Chicagoan who’s ever gotten a $100 ticket for making a rolling right turn on red.

“There’s been an oppressive climate created in the city of Chicago, the result of all these fees and tickets and red-light cameras and the parking meter deal,” del Valle burst out near the beginning of the debate. “We give people the boot for two tickets. Two tickets. It means that they can’t get to work sometimes, it creates hardship for families. We want to collect our revenue. But it’s time to be sensitive to what’s happening out in the neighborhoods in the city of Chicago.”

And just like that, the fourth-place candidate in the race, the man who’s only raised $110,000 and never polled higher than single digits, started getting some attention. The “phone started ringing off the hook” at campaign headquarters, campaign spokeswoman Joanna Klonsky said.

All of a sudden, the unassuming del Valle, who looks like the non-descript uncle you see once a year at a family reunion, was recognized by passing motorists.

“The difference is, I was walking down the street and people stopped their cars and said, ‘I’m voting for you!’ I was listening to WGN, and I heard a caller say he’d changed his vote to me,” he said this weekend, after a meeting with the disabled community at Sabroso restaurant in Albany Park. “He said, ‘del Valle was talking about the stuff that people care about, like that two ticket and the boot.’ I want to talk about things that are bothering people in the neighborhoods.”

(Del Valle thinks two tickets are too harsh a standard for booting a vehicle but won’t say how high he’d raise the number.)

Besides handing out buttons and placards, Del Valle added hundreds of friends on Facebook. This letter to the Tribune was representative of del Valle’s new supporters:

You know, before watching the WGN mayoral debate last night, I was leaning toward Rahm Emanuel. He’s sort of a bully and a player -- Hollywoodish, if you will -- so there is a distaste because of all that, but that's balanced by the fact that he would push people to get things done. But Miguel Del Valle, hey, you won my vote! You are the underdog, the one who represents Chicago neighborhoods, the little guy which, especially nowadays, is most of us.

At the Sabroso meeting, del Valle promised to increase job opportunities for the disabled and provide scholarship money for undocumented immigrants. To connect the "disconnected," as he put it. Then he slammed Rahm Emanuel for taking donations from members of Stand for Children, a group that supports a bill that would ban teachers from striking.

That night, del Valle went to a total hipster party in Pilsen, where he posed for photos with deejays and twentysomething women weating “del Valle” buttons on their blouses. It was Miguel del Valle’s weekend.

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