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Another Mayoral Candidate Enters The Fray

By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 28, 2014 2:00PM

Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.
Progressive voters in Chicago may have the candidate for whom they’ll cast their votes in the February mayoral election after Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia announced Monday he would challenge Rahm Emanuel. Garcia made a late evening media blitz declaring his candidacy with a central message that Chicago “is not headed in the right direction.” (And heading there on pockmarked streets, arewerite?)

Garcia, a reliable vote for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, will be an attractive candidate with left-leaning voters disappointed that Preckwinkle and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis aren’t mounting campaigns. Garcia’s resume is a strong one. He started his political career in 1984 when Harold Washington appointed Garcia as Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Water. Garcia was elected 22nd Ward Alderman in 1986 and in 1992 became the first Mexican-American elected to the Illinois Senate. After losing his Senate seat in 1998 to Daley-backed candidate Tony Munoz, Garcia founded the nonprofit community organization Enlace Chicago and was elected to the County Board four years ago, where he represents the 7th District.

Garcia is still fleshing out his campaign platform but based on his comments to media Monday expect him to attack Emanuel on his handling of Chicago Public Schools, Chicago’s violent crime rates and Emanuel’s “Mayor 1 Percent” reputation. It remains to be seen if Garcia can pose a serious challenge to the mayor and Garcia will need to raise cash. He currently has $15,000 in his campaign fund--$12,000 courtesy of a donation from Preckwinkle—compared to Emanuel’s $8.7 million war chest.

Garcia joins 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti, former alderman Robert Shaw, conservative pundit William Kelly, and community activists Amara Enyia and William Dock Walls as challengers for Emanuel. Kelly recently donated more than $100,000 to his campaign, which lifted contribution limits for all the candidates in the election.

While residents disgusted with Emanuel may agree with Garcia that the city is not on the right path, Garcia needs to prove to voters he has a concrete vision to address the challenges Chicago faces. If he can do that and make Emanuel defend his record with more than vague assertions of "building a new Chicago," Garcia could pose a threat. If not—and if he can't raise campaign cash—then he's the 2015 version of Miguel del Valle.