DOWNTOWN — Rep. Luis Gutiérrez endorsed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for mayor Wednesday — a signal that Garcia could soon enter the already crowded race.
The retiring Gutiérrez, who already endorsed Garcia to succeed him in Congress in November’s election, held a press conference Wednesday to announce he wouldn’t be running for mayor to succeed Rahm Emanuel, who won’t seek a third term.
And then Gutiérrez said he’s drafting Garcia to run for mayor.
It’s not immediately clear if Garcia, who lost to Emanuel during the 2015 election, actually plans to run for the city’s top spot. He’s fielded calls from people urging him to run, Garcia wrote in a news release after Gutiérrez’s press conference, but he didn’t say if he’d made a decision.
“As I take a closer look at the Mayor’s race I will continue to dialogue with Chicagoans from across our great city to talk about solutions that will both unify us and improve everyone’s quality of life,” Garcia said. “While we have great challenges ahead of us we also have an opportunity to bring peace to a city that has been too much at war with itself.”
Garcia has been campaigning for Congress to represent Illinois’ 4th congressional district. He won the Democratic primary in March and is considered a virtual lock to win the general in November.
“Chuy took us almost far enough four years ago … it’s time now to let his vision be fulfilled,” Gutiérrez said. “Chuy can continue what we began 35 years ago and heal the city, and God knows our city needs healing.”
They’ll set up an exploratory committee and start circulating petitions to have Garcia’s name added to the ballot as early as this weekend, he said, adding that if Garcia didn’t do that then Gutiérrez would do it for him.
“We are going to form an exploratory committee and start circulating petitions this weekend,” Gutiérrez said. “If Chuy doesn’t have petitions out, I will print them myself. I know how to spell his name.”
Garcia and his camp couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Garcia “has his finger on the pulse of Chicago and cares more deeply about its future” than any other city leader, Gutiérrez said, later adding that Garcia’s prior campaign has connected with Chicagoans. “He wasn’t the Latino candidate. He was the people’s candidate.”
Gutiérrez said he’s known Garcia since they were inspired by then-Mayor Harold Washington decades ago. When questioned about Garcia’s prior mayoral defeat — when he forced Emanuel into a runoff but then captured just 43 percent of the vote — Gutiérrez said Washington didn’t win his first mayoral election, either.
“I want him to be my mayor,” Gutiérrez said.
Garcia currently serves as a Cook County commissioner.