Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday endorsed Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in the Democratic primary race for Illinois' 4th Congressional District.
The endorsement comes just two days after Garcia announced his campaign to replace Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who also threw his support behind the commissioner after revealing he would not seek re-election.
"'Chuy' Garcia is the right person at the right time for the work we have ahead of us," Sanders said in a letter to supporters. "He is ready and willing to stand up and fight for the working families of Chicago and our nation and take on the powerful special interests who have far too much power over the economic and political life of our country. He is also an experienced legislator who has risen up the ladder of Chicago's brawling politics. That makes him well groomed for jumping into the House's rough and tumble political battles."
Garcia, a former mayoral candidate in Chicago, said during his announcement Tuesday that he plans to "build on [Gutierrez's] dynamic legacy that, with his signature firebrand oratory, has kept the issues front and center."
"My candidacy builds on the legacy of Mayor Harold Washington, the foresight and energy that brought young people together for Sen. Bernie Sanders and the work of Rep. Gutiérrez," Garcia said. "Luis has fought tirelessly in Congress for our undocumented brothers and sisters, and for people everywhere, to keep our hearts and minds open to the free-flowing movement of ideas and democracy. We must never allow fear and oppression to guide our nation."
Gutierrez is reportedly mulling a presidential bid, but the race to replace him in the House is already heating up.
Six candidates, including Garcia, are scrambling to get onto the ballot in time for the March primaries, when the race will truly begin.
Alderman Carlos Ramirez Rosa, who was dropped from Daniel Biss’ gubernatorial ticket earlier this year, has indicated that he is interested in running, along with fellow Alderman Joe Moreno.
Rich Gonzalez, a Chicago police sergeant, has already filed his signatures to run for Gutierrez’s seat, saying that he believes he was ineffective as a legislator. Sol Flores, a community activist, and Neli Vazquez Rowland, co-founder of A Safe Haven, are also expected to jump into the race.
Despite securing Gutierrez’s endorsement, Garcia dismisses critics that say a deal was made behind the scenes prior to the congressman’s decision to step aside.
Sanders, who noted Garcia was the first Mexican-American in the Illinois state Senate, said the "need to have a voice for immigrants on the national stage becomes more urgent every day."
"As an immigrant who has embraced his adopted homeland, he will be a fresh voice in Congress," Sanders said in his statement. "And with his strong ties to the Puerto Rican community, he will be a strong ally and powerful advocate for our 'Marshall Plan' legislation to rebuild and renew that island."
Candidates have until Dec. 4 at 5 p.m. to file petitions, and national money will likely pour into a race that wasn’t even on the political radar less than two days ago.