Is there an upset brewing on Chicago's far North Side? Veteran 40th Ward Ald. Pat O'Connor is using a new campaign tactic in what's shaping up to be the toughest re-election battle of his career.
O'Connor faces Andre Vasquez in the upcoming runoff election on April 2. A Democratic socialist, Vazquez has racked up endorsements from several progressive organizations and officials, including the Chicago Teachers Union, Service Employees International Union Local 73 and more.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, Vasquez - now in a senior management position at a major utility company, according to his website - was a rapper under the stage name of Prime.
His hip-hop past is what O'Connor's campaign is now highlighting, this week creating a website documenting Vasquez's history of misogynistic and homophobic remarks as a rapper.
The website, thetruthaboutandre.com, is paid for by O'Connor's campaign and features a “parental advisory” similar to those on album covers at the top. The site has in large type at the bottom of the page, “Andre Vasquez would bring shame on our community.”
The derogatory comments, largely about about women or gay people, come either from hip-hop forums or his lyrics.
In the song “Unbreakable,” he says, [he] “leaves these rappers shook like getting coughed on by an AIDS patient.”
In a statement, Vasquez said he's "not proud" of the person he was when he was younger.
"Some people grow and learn and change -- and that's good -- and some people don't. I'm not proud of who I was when I was a younger man, but I'm proud of who I am today," he said. "The Pat O'Connor who was attacking someone's ethnicity at a forum in 2018 is the same Pat O'Connor who tried to sabotage Harold Washington in 1984. Voters have a clear choice between the past and the future in this race."
Vasquez, in a press release after receiving the union endorsements from AFSCME Council 31 and SEIU, said “for the past two years, we’ve been organizing with The People’s Lobby and Reclaim Chicago to build the base to run an effective campaign rooted in shared priorities of getting big money out of politics.”
O’Connor told NBC5 that Vasquez’s language was “hateful,” and goes beyond what should be acceptable, even in rap music.
“I just don’t see this is part of an art form,” O’Connor said. “Misogyny, homophobia, glorification of violence against women […] Someone who only recently decided that these behaviors were problematic should be called into question.
The lyrics and comments come from as early as 2001. The most recent comment came from a 2010 tweet in which he wrote: “So my guy says to go to the Burger King Whopper Bar-there’s a hot chick that works there-it’s a tranny! Hahahah.”
“Was misogyny, homophobia and violence against women acceptable in 2001?,” O’Connor said. “I don’t think it was then. It’s not behavior people condoned then. […] When was hate acceptable?”
Despite running his campaign on a platform of compassion for immigrants, among other things, he has made derogatory comments about some of them in the past, calling some of them “lazy borderjumpers [sic].”
O’Connor has served as alderman for 36 years. He had been Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s floor leader.
Vasquez and O’Connor will face off in the 40th Ward’s runoff election on April 2.