Challenging the odds: DePaul alum Jorge Zavala to face incumbent in primary

After a grueling two weeks at the Chicago Board of Elections and months of campaigning, Jorge Zavala could finally breath easy. The 26-year-old DePaul alum officially made the ballot for the 4th congressional district of Illinois.

“The feeling was just indescribable,” Zavala said. “I actually cried, it’s such a momentous feat. There hasn’t been a candidate on the deomcratic side for over 15 years in the 4th district.”

One of the most biggest challenges for Zavala to get on the ballot was getting enough signatures, he said. They were able to get more than 1,500 signatures “which is awesome because we are a grassroots campaign.”

For his campaign, there is never more than three to five volunteers working at at time.

“I control the majority of my social media,” Zavala said. “We really try to focus on being approachable, unlike our opponent.”

Zavala’s democratic opponent, Rep. Luis Gutierrez has been in office since 1993.

“I really just like to tell people that he has a nice, strong foothold and there hasn’t been a viable candidate in 15 years,” Zavala said.

As the youngest congressional candidate, Zavala works it to his advantage, taking it as an opportunity to help change the perspective of our youth and politics.

The next few weeks are vital for Zavala’s campaign before the March 18 general primary election.

“The next couple weeks focus on visibility,” Zavala said. “We want to focus on the essence of our grassroots campaign advocating for the people by the people.”

Vijay Pendakur, the director of DePaul’s office of multicultural student success, said Zavala is still a committed alum of DePaul and the office of multicultural student services. This winter and spring Zavala will serve as an ‘early alumni’ on several panels for multicultural student services programs.

“We didn’t have to reach out to Jorge, he reached out to us asking how he could stay connected and give back,” Pendakur said.

During his time at DePaul, Zavala served as a STARS peer mentor, helping students transition into the DePaul Community.

“As a STARS peer mentor, Jorge was ready to go beyond helping his mentees to put on largescale events for students not connected with STARS,” Zavala said.

Zavala said he dedicates most of his time towards his campaign right now. However, he still dedicates two evenings a week working as an educational consultant. He works with students of all ages and income brackets to prepare them for high school and college, helping them with testing and scholarships.

In the end, Zavala still credits some of his success to the skills and values he gained while at DePaul.

“The values I learned at DePaul really came in handy when I fought long and hard,” Zavala said. “It’s been a very emotional time for me, but I’m very excited and empowered knowing that we have the support.”