Twenty-six-year-old community organizer Carlos Rosa surprised observers by beating Ald. Rey Colon with 67% percent of the vote on February 24. Rosa was the only challenger to beat a sitting alderman in the general election.

When asked how he managed his feat, Rosa said he knocked on a lot of doors and promised voters that he would be accountable to them and not make decisions, “because the Mayor told him to vote a certain way or because someone cut him a big campaign check.”

The 35th Ward includes Avondale, Irving Park, Albany Park, and parts of Logan Square, which has gentrified significantly. “More than half of the ward is brand new, and so Colon didn’t have the power of the incumbency there,” Rosa explained. “So he had to take a lot of time reintroducing himself, and I beat him at that.”

Without the stress of a runoff, the outspoken progressive activist from the Northwest Side of Chicago turned his attention to the Mayor’s race and put his energy into Jesus “Chuy” Garcia campaign. Garcia may have lost, but Rosa says his campaign spokesperson, Monica Trevino, will have a permanent position on Rosa’s staff.

Rosa was also the first of the freshman class of aldermen to commit to the Council’s Progressive Caucus. When Aldertrack recently spoke with Rosa, he said that he’s already met with several senior members and is “150% committed” to building the Caucus over the next four years.

“We need to make sure that we are addressing the city’s budget and pension crisis in a way that protects Chicago’s working families,” Rosa said. “So, I am going to be working aggressively to make sure that solutions that are being brought to the table ask that the big corporations and the super wealthy pay their fair share.”

Progressive aldermen aren’t the only ones courting Rosa. At the last general City Council meeting, Ald. Tom Tunney (44) and Ald. James Cappleman (46) approached Rosa and asked him if he would be interested in joining an LGBT Caucus, should it form. He’s also meeting with the Latino Caucus’ new chairman, Ald. George Cardenas (12).

Rosa had strong union support heading into the February election, most of which came in the final month. According to the D-2 Rosa filed with the state Board of Elections for October 1st through December 31st, he barely raised $11,000. At that time, State Sen. William Delgado was his biggest funder. But the following quarter, unions bankrolled 85% of his campaign with $41,000 in contributions. The Chicago Teacher’s Union was his biggest contributor.

Citywide Priorities: Since Rosa will be working closely with the Progressive Caucus, he declined to detail specific agenda items until the Caucus finalized their list of priorities.

Local Priorities: Rosa says he’s received 265 applications from people interested in working in his office. Once he finalizes his team and gets his constituent services office up and running, he and his team will take a complete inventory of the state of the ward. Rosa says he wants to catalog all the available commercial real estate and vacant properties in the ward, “to get a real sense where the different neighborhoods stand.”

Office Space: Rosa has not finalized a lease for his Ward office and has yet to pick a chief of staff.