CHICAGO – Jesus “Chuy” Garcia said he is putting together a multi-ethnic coalition to unseat Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in an April 7 runoff after denying victory to the incumbent in this week’s first round of voting.
“People voted for change and I came out in a very favorable position to strengthen my campaign and achieve that change,” Garcia told Efe in an interview hours after he spoiled the plans of Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s former White House chief of staff.
Garcia, a county commissioner, got 33.9 percent of the vote on Tuesday, while Emanuel received 45.4 percent, setting up a second round to determine who will govern the nation’s third-largest city.
Emanuel spent 10 times more on political ads than Garcia and quadrupled the combined spending of all four of his challengers in the all-Democratic contest.
The campaign has seen the emergence of a governing coalition “that will be something new in Chicago,” Garcia told Efe.
The Mexican-born Garcia said he hopes to pick up votes from African Americans who drifted away from Emanuel despite the explicit support the mayor received from Obama and prominent local black politicians and religious leaders.
“I know I need to grow more among African Americans,” Garcia said.
The Latino challenger’s political mentor was Harold Washington, Chicago’s only black mayor, who ran the city from 1983 to 1987 and remains an icon for progressives here.
Four years ago, Emanuel received 60 percent of the African American vote, while this week he got less than 40 percent of the vote in the same precincts.
And according to Garcia, the remaining African American support for Emanuel was a product not of “ideological conviction” but of “the conventional approach to politics.”
“Many people bet on where the money is, and money was with the mayor this time,” said Garcia, whose campaign was financed mainly by public employee labor unions angered by Emanuel’s policies as mayor.
Garcia, 59, who was raised in Chicago’s La Villita/Little Village neighborhood, was the third choice of the city’s progressives, who turned to him after a higher-profile black female politician declined to run and the head of the Chicago teachers’ union, also an African American woman, had to bow out when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Prominent because of his activism in the Enlace Chicago community organization, Garcia was a city alderman and an Illinois state senator in the 1980s. He was elected to the Cook County Commission in 2010.
Garcia is confident that over the next six weeks he will gather the resources needed to counter his rival’s barrage of ads and to convey his platform “with more strength.”
“Yesterday (Tuesday) we showed many people that it is possible to make changes in Chicago, and now we will get better resources to compete,” he said.