Mexican-born candidate for mayor of Chicago and upstart challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia told Efe that if he wins Chicago’s all-Democratic mayoral runoff against incumbent Rahm Emanuel, it will have nationwide repercussions.
Should he win on Tuesday, questions could arise about the direction the Democratic Party is taking, because “the election in the nation’s third-largest city could be a “referendum” between the two wings that seek control of the party” Chuy said.
The more conservative wing will be represented by Rahm because of his “ties to big capital and financial interests,” while Garcia will represent the more popular faction “of working folks,” he said.
His victory would send a message “to Democrats who cater to the rich and powerful with a corporate agenda that seeks to privatize everything without a thought for our neighborhoods,” the Mexican-born county commissioner said.
According to Garcia, his campaign “has assembled the elements of victory,” with the majority backing of Latinos, who make up 14 percent of the electorate, and significant support among African Americans, Asians, Muslims and white progressives.
“We’ve got together a pretty diverse coalition, something that’s unprecedented for a candidate from the minority community,” he said.
Garcia, who has lived in Chicago since the age of 10, was a city alderman and Illinois state senator before winning a seat on the Cook County Commission.
The 59-year-old 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.
In the first round, held Feb. 24, Emanuel had four challengers and failed to win 50 percent of the vote plus one, which would have avoided a runoff, despite an intense advertising campaign backed by a campaign fund 10 times richer than Garcia’s, who won 34 percent of the vote compared with 45 percent for the incumbent.
The Hispanic candidate noted that his strategy for the runoff was to mobilize thousands of volunteers “who will make the difference” this Tuesday, knocking on doors and getting out the vote over social networks.
Most of the volunteers are from unions, which also chipped in money to pay for his ad campaign.
Garcia points to “a great push for change,” in particular among working families in Chicago affected by insecurity and economic inequality.
The latest polls give Rahm a 51.3 percent voter preference, compared with 33 percent for Garcia, while 15.6 percent are undecided.
But Garcia said he’s not worried because, in his opinion, the polls do not really reflect Chicago’s electorate and he believes in the enthusiasm he has observed among his neighbors.
“People want to take a new direction and the racial or ethnic group doesn’t matter, and that motivates and excites me,” he said.
With the chance of becoming the first Latino mayor of Chicago, Garcia said his goal is to work on behalf of everyone.
“The city has enormous diversity and in order to make progress, I’ll have to see to the needs of everyone,” Garcia concluded.
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