“Of course, all cab drivers will tell you that it’s only temporary,” Gutierrez said, “but for me, I was actually telling the truth!”
The cab driving facilitated his campaign, but Gutierrez laughs when he looks back on the comparison between him and the incumbent, Dan Rostenkowski, then a Congressman and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
“Dan Rostenkowski: Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, one of the most influential and powerful men in Washington, D.C.,” read Rostenkowski’s campaign literature.
“Luis Gutierrez: He drives a cab!” read Gutierrez’s.
Gutierrez lost, garnering only 24 percent of the vote, and went back to cab driving until he was asked by then-Chicago Mayor Harold Washington to serve as one of his advisers. He drove his cab right up until the Sunday before he started his job with the city.
The following Monday, Gutierrez walked into City Hall, wearing a brand new blue suit and maroon penny loafers. In 1986, he ran for alderman in Chicago’s 26th ward and won. In 1992, he ran for Representative for Illinois’ 4th district and won.
And Gutierrez never again got back behind the wheel of a cab.
When he rides in cabs today, Gutierrez finds that drivers often recognize him — listening to NPR all day gives most drivers a pretty good grasp of current events. He describes cab drivers as “connoisseurs of the news,” so they usually figure out who he is once he gives directions.
And even though he’s no longer a cab driver, he speaks of cabbies as if they’re old friends.
“I always have a good experience with my cab drivers,” he said.