By Mike Lillis - 05/20/12 09:45 AM EDT
From Chi-town adversaries to partners in community outreach, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have come a long way in the last two years.
Gutierrez famously opposed Emanuel, President Obama's former chief of staff, when he quit the White House to run for mayor of Chicago in 2010. And the attacks quickly became heated, with Gutierrez criticizing Emanuel's policies and personality alike.
"None," Gutierrez said in an interview Friday. "He's the mayor of the City of Chicago. As long as he's doing things that I can support, I'm gonna support him.
"It's just about working together," Gutierrez added. "And we're going to look at other opportunities to collaborate."
The relationship wasn't always so cuddly.
In early 2010 — with long-time Chicago Mayor Richard Daley hinting he wouldn't seek reelection and Emanuel showing strong interest in replacing him — Gutierrez was quick to hammer Obama's right-hand man on issues ranging from immigration, to trade, to his tenure as a Wall Street financier.
"He’s not going to get my endorsement anytime soon," Gutierrez said in April 2010. "He should stay in the White House, [and] then he can go make millions in investment banking [afterwards]."
After Emanuel announced his candidacy, Gutierrez accused the former Clinton advisor of being the "chief architect of NAFTA," the free-trade agreement Gutierrez considered a catastrophe for Illinois's economy. The outspoken Gutierrez also attacked Emanuel for his tenure in Congress — which included stints atop the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Caucus — suggesting Emanuel didn't care much about the human consequences of public policy.
"Rahm always thought about the mechanics of electoral and political victory and always put a higher premium on that over the substance of public policy," Gutierrez told Chicago Magazine in January of 2011.
Emanuel easily won the Chicago mayor's race a month later, outgunning five other candidates, including former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) and former Chicago schools president Gery Chico, another Democrat.
Bucking Emanuel, Gutierrez had endorsed Chico throughout the contest.
In March, however, Emanuel reached out to Gutierrez for help with a business forum the mayor was planning in Gutierrez's district, which is in the north and southwest sides of Chicago. Gutierrez quickly accepted, and the two Democrats joined forces to launch a public-private partnership designed to help small businesses in immigrant neighborhoods.
The two met for lunch "immediately thereafter," Gutierrez relayed Friday, "and we discussed … future collaborative measures."
That meeting led to the pair to reunite last Saturday on another outreach program in Gutierrez's district, this one encouraging non-citizens eligible for citizenship to sign up — a group Gutierrez said numbers 300,000 in Illinois alone, and most of them in Chicago.
"Nobody's rooting for them and organizing them," he said.
Gutierrez said he told Emanuel, "I think that you can play a key role nationally for citizenship — not for immigration — but for citizenship."
"Anytime you can get an influential non-Hispanic to advocate for citizenship and for immigration, it's a good thing," Gutierrez added.
Roughly 300 Chicagoans filed citizenship papers — complete with the $680 fee — as a result of the workshop, Gutierrez said.
"When's the last time you heard a congressman get 300 people to come to an event where they had to pay $680?" Gutierrez asked. "Not bad. The Tea Partiers get to do it for free, so they're lucky.
"My hope is that the mayor will now take this and expand upon it," he added. "And I think he will."
Gutierrez said he has no regrets about supporting Chico in 2010, noting that his district — which is largely Hispanic — was one of the few to oppose Emanuel.
Emanuel's office did not respond to requests for comment Friday, but Gutierrez said the mayor understands Gutierrez was speaking for his district through the mayoral race.
"I did what I responsibly felt I had to do. He understands that," Gutierrez said. "The 4th congressional district agreed with me — the results were clear. I think he understands that, too. So why don't we just each keep moving on?
"I've known him for a long time," Gutierrez added. "Rahm and I, we're doing good."