Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia is making it official: he will challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the February election.
The former Chicago Alderman, State Senator and current Cook County Commissioner cites Emanuel’s lack of progress in the city’s neighborhoods as the reason to run.
“People in this town are hurting as it relates to the direction of the city,” he said when asked what’s wrong with Emanuel.
The 58-year-old politician and activist says his decision is linked to CTU president Karen Lewis’ announcement to end a run due to health issues.
“I hope to earn her endorsement,” he said, adding that he has spoken to Lewis about his run and received her encouragement. Garcia says he will also seek the support of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle as well as Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who has already stated he is backing the mayor. “I’m going to ask him to consider Chuy Garcia,” Garcia said sitting in the backyard of his Little Village home.
In taking on the first term Mayor, Garcia, who goes by the nickname “Chuy”, cites failures in public safety, city finances and Chicago’s public school system as key issues.
“If anything he’s created an environment of insecurity, uncertainty and fear where bullying has taken place against teachers, against principals, against parents, against other stakeholders,” he said. Asked if he was calling the mayor a bully, Garcia responded, “I’m saying he has failed on the commitments he has made.”
Emanuel’s nearly $9 million campaign fund dwarfs the $15,000 Garcia has in storage. He’ll need, he says, $3 million to be competitive.
“I think by the time that I register as a candidate we will be at least half way there,” he said. He is working he said with long time political strategist Don Rose, who helped Jane Byrne defeat Michael Bilandic in 1979.
Garcia supporters are poised to begin passing petitions in order to secure 12,500 voters who want his name on the ballot. They have about a month to accomplish this.
Asked about a possible run by Garcia today Mayor Emanuel said he will gladly take on any challengers.
Garcia joins 2nd ward alderman Bob Fioretti, the only other major candidate in the race.
Garcia served in the Chicago City Council, an ally of Mayor Harold Washington. He was the first Mexican-American elected to the state senate.
This will be the most daunting of his political career… a fact not lost on Garcia.
“I am a cock-eyed optimist,” he said when asked about his chances.