b. July 7, 1961
Chicago, 35th Ward Alderman (2003-2015)
Chicago, 35th Ward Democratic Committeeman (2004-2012)
Rey Colon won his seat in 2003, after a bitter and divisive fight against incumbent Vilma Colom. Colon ran as an independent, organizing a grassroots neighborhood campaign against Colom, charging that she was out of touch and arrogant, a cog in Richard Mell's organization. A protege of then-State Senator Miguel Del Valle and an opponent of the Hispanic Democratic Organization, Colon put a strong focus on community zoning issues, and benefited from a strong anti-gentrification sentiment in a ward that was quickly changing. Colom ran against Colon in a rematch in 2007. She lost for a second time, but her candidacy was fueled by charges that Colon is not quite the reformer he claims to be.
Although Colom, who was backed by Democratic organization leader Dick Mell, was not the strongest person to accuse Colon of lacking reform credentials, she was mostly right. Once in office Colon forgot about his connections to Del Valle (even shucking him off when ran for mayor in 2011) and became a close ally of Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel, carrying their water in Council whenever needed.
Meanwhile, once a majority Puerto Rican ward, the 35th Ward, set in gentrifying Logan Square and Avondale, became increasingly white and progressive as the years passed during Colon's tenure. Fore a time he was able to stave off a new set of challengers, but in 2012 progressive organizer Nancy Schiavone defeated him for Committeeman. Schiavone's victory set the stage for further change, helping Will Guzzardi defeat Colon-supported State Rep. Toni Berrios in 2014. Then, Schiavone and Guzzardi teamed up to sponsor immigration activist Carlos Ramirez-Rosa against Colon in 2015. Facing a tidal wave of local progressive activists in his home ward, Colon barely mounted a defense, getting swept away outright, without a runoff.
Employment and Electoral History
Before becoming alderman, Colon worked as Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago, Area Manager of the Chicago Park District, and Executive Director of YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago.
- Carl Schurz High School
- Roosevelt University, B.A., Community Management.
Important Political Events
- 1999, Defeated for 35th Ward Alderman by Vilma Colom
- 2003, Elected 35th Ward Alderman, defeating Vilma Colom in a runoff
- 2004, Elected 35th Ward Democratic Committeeman, defeating Vilma Colom
- 2007, Reelected 35th Ward Alderman, defeating Vilma Colom in a runoff
- 2012, Defeated for 35th Ward Democratic Committeeman by Nancy Schiavone
- 2015, Defeated for 35th Ward Alderman by Carlos Ramirez-Rosa