Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 1992, 11th term.

Born: December 10, 1953, Chicago

Home: Chicago

Education: NE IL U., B.A. 1975

Professional Career: Teacher, Puerto Rico, 1977–78; Social wkr., Chicago Dept. of Children & Family Svcs., 1979–83; Advisor, Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, 1984–86.

Ethnicity: Hispanic/Latino

Religion: Catholic

Family: married (Soraida) , 2 children

Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat elected in 1992 and the first Hispanic member of Congress from Illinois, has for years been the House’s most vocal advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, which he likens to the civil rights struggle. After President Barack Obama’s resounding electoral support among Latinos in 2012 led members of both parties to agree that the issue should be addressed, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel joked that “the rest of America has caught up with Luis Gutierrez.”

Gutierrez (goo-tee-AIR-ez) is of Puerto Rican descent and grew up in Chicago. As a student at Northeastern Illinois University in the 1970s, he joined a protest over the lack of basic English classes for students from other countries, which ended up with the protesters taking over an administration building. Gutierrez worked as a teacher for two years in Puerto Rico after college. When he returned to Chicago, he worked as a cab driver and social worker. In 1983, he ran for 32nd Ward committeeman against Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski and lost decisively. Then he became a staffer for Mayor Harold Washington, the city’s first black mayor. He ran for alderman in 1984 and lost. In 1986, he ran again and won in one of two new Hispanic-majority wards. After Washington died, Gutierrez backed Richard M. Daley in the 1989 election. Backing winners is a formula that works in Chicago politics. In the 1992 primary, for the new House seat, rival and former Alderman Juan Soliz called Gutierrez a machine candidate. Gutierrez won, 60%-40%. Since easily winning a rematch in 1994, Gutierrez has not had serious competition.

In the House, Gutierrez has staked out liberal positions, and is known for his feisty, blunt style. As a freshman, his outspoken opposition to congressional pay raises, including labeling the House “the belly of the beast” in a television interview, got him into hot water with Democratic leaders. “I’ve gotten my rear end kicked around here,” Gutierrez told The Washington Post. But he mended fences, and in 2011 was appointed to the Select Intelligence Committee.

As a former member of the Financial Services Committee, he proposed higher FDIC charges for big banks and lower fees for community banks in 2009. He also sponsored the $200 billion receivership fund (later reduced to $150 billion) for banks, which was included in the financial regulation bill of 2010. He called in March 2012 for the resignation of the Federal Home Financing Agency’s acting Director Edward DeMarco for not doing enough to help those facing foreclosure. “We are facing serious problems in the housing market, and we simply can’t use someone at FHFA who plugs his ears and refuses (to) try for workable solutions,” he said.

Gutierrez has traveled the country appearing at rallies and other events—occasionally getting arrested—in his quest for a bill that gives illegal immigrants a potential path to citizenship. Over the years, he has pushed to restore food stamp eligibility to legal immigrants, to grant automatic citizenship to immigrants in military combat, and legal status to immigrants without documentation who make major contributions in the United States. “I want to be a spokesperson for people that are new to this country,” he has said. In 2005, he was the lead Democratic sponsor of the House version of an overhaul in immigration policy, which passed the Senate in 2006 but died in the Republican-controlled House. In the 110th Congress (2007-08), he revived the bill with a provision to allow illegal immigrants who had been employed in the U.S. before June 1, 2006, to apply for “conditional non-immigrant status.” After an appearance on MSNBC to debate the immigration issue, Gutierrez got into a shoving match with then-Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, a Republican known for his tough, anti-illegal immigrant positions. Gutierrez said afterward, “It wasn’t my best moment.”

In March 2010, Gutierrez said he would vote against the Democrats’ sweeping health care bill because it barred illegal immigrants from the proposed insurance exchanges; two days before the vote, he switched and said he would vote yes. For much of the 111th Congress (2009-10), he pressed the Obama White House and the House Democratic leadership to advance comprehensive immigration legislation, to no avail, leading him to regularly rebuke the president. But he was also quick to praise Obama in June 2012 for issuing an executive order allowing people who entered the United States illegally as children to remain and work without fear of deportation for at least two years. “With one swoop of the pen, he has mended a relationship with the Latino community that has been frayed,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. He blasted Obama’s rival, Mitt Romney, an immigration hard-liner, as someone who wanted to turn young children’s dreams into “nightmares.”

In the 113th Congress (2013-14), Gutierrez again played a leading role on immigration. He was part of a bipartisan group of House members that quietly met, off and on, for years to draft a proposal leading up to 2013. He began as an optimist, hoping that a friendship he struck with 2012 GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan -- the two worked out together at the House gym -- would prove useful. He repeatedly called for action, warning Republicans in May 2014 that if they didn't act, George W. Bush will be "the last Republican president in American history." But the Senate's passage of a bipartisan bill did nothing to move the legislation through the House, and by the following month Gutierrez urged Obama to act unilaterally. "Your chance to play a role in how immigration and deportation policies are carried out this year are over,” he told colleagues in an angry floor speech. “Having given ample time to craft legislation, you failed.”

Gutierrez has weighed in on Puerto Rican issues. He stoutly opposed the Democratic leadership’s bill mandating a referendum on the current commonwealth status in Puerto Rico, and, if that were rejected, giving Puerto Rican voters a choice between the current status and independence. “This bill is not the product of consensus. It does not provide for true self-determination. The two-step process in the bill is designed to craft an artificial majority for statehood,” he argued. The House passed the bill 223-169 in April 2010, but it died in the Senate.

In 2008, Gutierrez was the subject of unflattering news coverage about real estate deals with local developers. The Chicago Tribune reported that starting in 2002, Gutierrez had made about $421,000 by investing in half a dozen real estate deals with campaign supporters and then exiting a short time later. Gutierrez told the newspaper that he had made a profit in five of the deals but lost money on the sixth. Developer Calvin Boender, who loaned him $200,000 in a 2004 real estate deal, was convicted on bribery charges in March 2010. During the trial, there was testimony that Gutierrez helped Boender get a zoning change for a development on the West Side of Chicago.

Gutierrez was at the center of another ethics controversy in 2013, when USA Today reported that he had made payments from his official House account for a decade to a lobbying firm run by his former chief of staff. Members are barred from hiring consultants on short-term contracts for “general, non-legislative” purposes. Gutierrez denied any wrongdoing, and the House Ethics Committee declined in May 2014 to launch a full-scale investigation into the matter.

Though he often plays the rebel, Gutierrez has been capable of building bridges as well. In the past, he has brought together Chicago’s fractious Democratic politicians to maximize Latino influence. He considered running for mayor of Chicago, but decided against challenging Mayor Daley after Democrats regained the House majority in 2006. In early 2009, he announced he would retire from Congress but reversed that decision in time for the candidate filing deadline.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-8203

(202) 225-7810

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2408
Washington, DC 20515-1304

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-8203

(202) 225-7810

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2408
Washington, DC 20515-1304

DISTRICT OFFICE

(773) 342-0774

(773) 342-0776

3240 West Fullerton Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647-2512

DISTRICT OFFICE

(773) 342-0774

(773) 342-0776

3240 West Fullerton Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647-2512

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Agriculture

Rafael Hurtado
Legislative Correspondent

Appropriations

David Velazquez
Legislative Assistant

Arts

Theresa Paucar
District Director

Budget

David Velazquez
Legislative Assistant

Communication

Douglas Rivlin
Communications Director

Education

Theresa Paucar
District Director

Adrienne Castro
Legislative Correspondent

Energy

David Velazquez
Legislative Assistant

Environment

Rafael Hurtado
Legislative Correspondent

Finance

Douglas Rivlin
Communications Director

Foreign

Govt Ops

Susan Collins
Chief of Staff

Adrienne Castro
Legislative Correspondent

Homeland Security

Immigration

Theresa Paucar
District Director

Damaris Devora
Congressional Aide

Intelligence

Susan Collins
Chief of Staff

Judiciary

Labor

David Velazquez
Legislative Assistant

Military

Theresa Paucar
District Director

Minorities

David Velazquez
Legislative Assistant

Rules

Susan Collins
Chief of Staff

Social Security

Theresa Paucar
District Director

Telecommunications

Transportation

Rafael Hurtado
Legislative Correspondent

Veterans

Adrienne Castro
Legislative Correspondent

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Luis Gutierrez
Votes: 133,226
Percent: 83.0%
Hector Concepcion
Votes: 27,279
Percent: 17.0%
2012 PRIMARY
Luis Gutierrez
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Luis Gutierrez
Votes: 63,273
Percent: 77.36%
Israel Vasquez
Votes: 11,711
Percent: 14.32%
Robert Burns
Votes: 6,808
Percent: 8.32%
2010 PRIMARY
Luis Gutierrez
Votes: 34,000
Percent: 99.0%
2008 GENERAL
Luis Gutierrez
Votes: 112,529
Percent: 80.6%
Daniel Cunningham
Votes: 16,024
Percent: 11.48%
Omar Lopez
Votes: 11,053
Percent: 7.92%
2008 PRIMARY
Luis Gutierrez
Votes: 63,436
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (77%), 2008 (81%), 2006 (86%), 2004 (84%), 2002 (80%), 2000 (89%), 1998 (82%), 1996 (94%), 1994 (75%), 1992 (78%)

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