Garcia Cruises to Victory in Race to Replace Gutierrez: AP - NBC Chicago
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Garcia Cruises to Victory in Race to Replace Gutierrez: AP

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    Jesus "Chuy" Garcia won the Democratic primary for Illinois' 4th Congressional District Tuesday, the Associated Press projected, holding on to his frontrunner status in the race to replace outgoing Rep. Luis Gutierrez.

    Garcia had more than 67 percent of the vote with 75 percent of precincts reporting at 8:34 p.m., a margin wide enough to defeat Sol Flores and Richard Gonzalez to earn the nomination for the seat Gutierrez has held for more than 25 years.

    Widely seen as one of the nation's most outspoken advocates for immigrants, Gutierrez revealed in November that he would not seek reelection.

    Insisting in his surprise announcement that he is "not retiring" from the fight for immigrant rights, Gutierrez then endorsed Garcia, a Cook County Commissioner and his longtime friend since they served on Chicago City Council together beginning in 1986, as his chosen successor.

    Best known for forcing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel into an historic runoff election in 2015, polls showed Garcia maintaining a sizable lead over a wide field of candidates that whittled down to just two others by Election Day: Flores, a community organizer and executive director of nonprofit La Casa Norte, and Gonzalez, a former Chicago police sergeant.

    For good measure, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders - who Garcia endorsed in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary - also threw his support behind Garcia.

    Garcia will face GOP candidate Mark Wayne Lorch in November, but the district is a Democratic stronghold, virtually guaranteeing him a general election victory.

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