Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia went head-to-head Thursday for the second of three televised debates before next month's mayoral election.
The debate, hosted by WFLD-TV, came as both candidates have been sharpening their attacks, with Garcia accusing Emanuel of being too closely aligned with big business and the mayor questioning his challenger's lack of a detailed plan for fixing Chicago's financial problems.
In a much more confrontational style Garcia attacked the mayor on coal plants, hiring more police, mental health cuts, and the Lucas Museum.
Garcia said Mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking credit for cleaning up coal plants but "merely came to cut ribbons" and others worked on it for 10 years.
As for the Lucas Museum, Emanuel said "it could have gone to San Francisco" but Garcia called it a "monument to Darth Vader."
The mayor, whose style has been criticized, did not show much emotion as he answered the questions in a measured way.
Garcia, who has taken a beating for not being specific enough, countered the mayor's attacks by criticizing, "He talks about all of these jobs, the fact is the city has one of the slowest recoveries."
They also disagreed on the city's safety.
Emanuel said he's visited with families impacted by violence and "a good portion of gang-on-gang homicides," while Garcia blasted the violence under Emanuel's rule citing the city's "10,000 shootings and the unsolved shootings."
Garcia had lunch Thursday with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who considered her own challenge to Emanuel before she was diagnosed with cancer and decided instead to recruit Garcia to run. The former Illinois state senator said there's "a lot of excitement in the air" as he campaigns across the city.
Garcia, who has lagged well behind Emanuel in fundraising, was in Los Angeles and New York in recent days holding fundraisers with progressive groups and labor unions to fund a final campaign push.
Emanuel held an event Thursday with African-American ministers — his third such stop in the past week — where he pushed voters to cast their ballots early.
Early voting started Monday, and on Wednesday election officials said more than 21,000 people cast ballots in the first two days. That's the largest number of ballots cast during the first two days of early voting for any municipal election in Chicago, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
Garcia finished second to Emanuel in a five-candidate first-round election on Feb. 24, but Emanuel failed to win a majority, resulting in the April 7 runoff.