Jesus "Chuy" Garcia said Tuesday that the "people have spoken" in forcing an April runoff election between him and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
"So nobody thought we’d be here tonight," he said. "They wrote us off; they said we didn’t have a chance. They said we didn’t have any money while they spent millions attacking us. Well, we’re still standing! We’re still running! And we’re gonna win!"
While Garcia trailed the mayor by double digits in Tuesday's election, winning 34 percent of the vote, he and three other challengers managed to win enough support to keep Emanuel from crossing the 50-percent-plus-one threshold needed to win the election outright. Results showed Emanuel sitting just shy of that mark, with about 46 percent, for much of the night.
Tuesday's results mark the first time an incumbent mayor has been forced into a runoff since the city's election system changed in the 1990s. Emanuel's campaign spent millions to blanket the airwaves and called on big-name supporters, including President Barack Obama, in an attempt to avoid that outcome.
But Garcia, a Cook County commissioner, had on his side support of the powerful Chicago Teachers Union, which capitalized on opposition to Emanuel's decision to close dozens of under-performing schools. Garcia and the other candidates also sought to portray the incumbent as choosing business and other entrenched interests over better opportunities for all Chicagoans.
Garcia told NBC Chicago during the campaign that he would, to hire a thousand more police officers, reduce class sizes and standardized tests and “invest in neighborhoods to attract manufacturing or industrial-creation jobs.”
"We’re gonna build a new Chicago that works for everyone, a Chicago that people will want to move to, not run away from," he said Tuesday. "And starting six weeks from tonight, we’re going to change it together."
Emanuel, meanwhile, told his supporters that Tuesday marked just "the first step in a real important journey for our city." He called Garica a "good man" and said he looks "forward to a debate of the issues in the weeks ahead so we can be clear about the choice for the city of hicago's future."
The runoff race is scheduled for April 7..