CHICAGO — Illinois Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia acknowledged Wednesday that he’s weighing a run for mayor of Chicago, a move that would upend the already crowded race to unseat incumbent Lori Lightfoot, a fellow Democrat.
“I don’t want to pressure myself,” Garcia said at a downtown news conference where he presented a slate of candidates he’s supporting in the spring municipal elections. Block Club Chicago was the first to report on the event.
“I want to be as deliberate and as understanding of all of the issues that are facing the city of Chicago,” Garcia said, pointing specifically to public safety.
Three Chicago council members, including Ald. Ray Lopez, are already in the race. State Rep. Kam Buckner, former Chicago Public Schools chief Paul Vallas are in as well. Former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is also mulling a run.
Though recent polling numbers suggest Lightfoot, who was saddled with managing a pandemic and a wave of crime that’s slowly getting under control, is seen as vulnerable, she continues to outpace her declared opponents in fundraising with more than $2.7 million in the bank. Garcia’s entry would challenge that.
Lightfoot, who campaigned four years ago as a government reformer, says she needs another term to finish what she started. Activists say she hasn’t done enough to address the ethics and transparency issues she campaigned on. And though Chicago mayors over the years have worn their surly image as a badge of honor, Lightfoot’s blunt manner and style still draws criticism. Others blame her administration for a wave of crime that escalated during the pandemic, much the way it did across the country. Overall shootings are down compared to a year ago, but the issue remains a concern to residents.
Garcia would be a formidable opponent. In 2015, he forced then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel into a runoff, losing with 44.5 percent of the vote to Emanuel’s 55.5 percent.
He once served on the city council and as a Cook County commissioner earlier in his career before running for Congress. He has become a force in the progressive caucus, working closely with newer lawmakers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, while continuing to build coalitions in Chicago.
Garcia, a shoo-in for his congressional seat in November, pushed for a second Latino-centric district in the Illinois redistricting process and endorsed state Rep. Delia Ramirez, who won the primary for the new seat. He has also been instrumental in recruiting Latino candidates to the Illinois General Assembly, and backed state Rep. Lisa Hernandez in her successful bid to run the state Democratic Party in a high-profile intra-party this year.
Earlier this month, Garcia wouldn’t confirm whether he was considering a run for mayor, but he did acknowledge that he expects progressives to play a role in determining the outcome of the race.
“Anyone seriously contending or aspiring to be mayor of the city of Chicago will have to brandish a platform that embraces values that are held dear by progressives. There are bread-and-butter issues. And public safety will be a big concern and a robust part of debate of whoever wants to be mayor,” he told Illinois Playbook. “Given the sweeps across the North West and South West sides, the progressive community will play a large role in the next mayoral election.”
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