After a hard fought race for an open seat in the the 15th Ward, Alderman-elect 15th Ward Democratic Committeeman Raymond Lopez is taking little for granted and working to carve his own path. For instance, although Lopez is openly gay and married to his campaign manager, Hugo Orojel, he’s not necessarily a natural to join the Progressive Caucus after avowed progressive Rafel Yañez worked so hard to defeat him for alderman.

To get sense of the priorities of new City Council members, Aldertrack is interviewing each one. Ald.-elect Lopez is our first.

This was Lopez second try for the 15th Ward on the Southwest side of Chicago. The ward’s current alderman, Toni Foulkes, beat Lopez in a runoff in 2011, but then moved next door this cycle to win the neighboring 16th Ward seat, while endorsing Lopez’s opponent in 2015. Lopez, in turn, got support from several incumbent aldermen, including Ald. Tom Tunney (44), Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) and neighboring Ald. Ed Burke (14).

Top legislative priorities citywide: Lopez says dealing with the budget and public pensions will be, “the biggest priority, obstacle and area for progress,” for the new Council. “Anything that we propose in terms of social services and housing is definitely going to be impacted on the city’s ability to pay for it,” Lopez said.

Top local issues in the 15th Ward: Lopez told Aldertrack a lot of his time will be focused on housing issues. “We have a lot of vacant land and housing foreclosures that we need to work on throughout the entire ward.” Lopez said that he already has a team canvassing the ward and logging all of the vacant properties to see what is salvageable and could potentially be refurbished into affordable housing, among other uses.

Lopez said he has already started working with the Chicago Department of Transportation to address the numerous potholes in the ward and working on addressing city service requests that are “languishing” in the 311 system. Throughout the campaign Lopez highlighted the fact that as Committeeman he has provided city services to residents and is familiar with the various city department heads. Now that he is officially the alderman, he hopes to have an easier time providing those services.

Potential Caucus Alignment: “Let’s see what these various caucuses have to offer in terms of their relationship with the 15th Ward. Obviously the 15th Ward has very unique dynamics at play […] and if there is a caucus that has the interests of my residents in mind, I will definitely consider it,” but Lopez said his major focus will be on his constituents. Lopez did however say that he would be open to possibly joining the Latino Caucus and any future LGBT Caucus–with the addition of Lopez and Ald.-elect Carlos Ramirez-Rosa in the 35th Ward, there will now be 5 openly gay members on the City Council. Lopez said he would even be open to joining the Black Caucus, “if the offer was extended,” since he won a majority of the Black vote in his ward.

Ward Office/Logistics: Lopez plans to have two offices, like he did during the campaign. One will be in West Englewood. The other will be between Back of the Yards and Brighton Park. He has also picked his chief of staff, an African American woman, but would not release further details by publication.