CHICAGO — Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García is considering a run for mayor, he said Wednesday.
García — a longtime local politician and community organizer — would be entering an already crowded field, but he could pose a significant challenge to Mayor Lori Lightfoot. In the 2015 elections, when he last ran for mayor, he forced then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel into a runoff.
García, who represents the state’s 4th district, said he’ll soon announce his decision about a possible run.
“I don’t want to pressure myself,” García said at a news conference where he and other leaders announced who they’re endorsing in various races. “I want to be as deliberate and as understanding of all of the issues that are facing the city of Chicago. The public safety challenges, the promise of new endeavors, and the area of public safety … .”
García could pose a serious threat to Lightfoot with his wide name recognition and years of political experience. In 2015, he ran against Emanuel, getting an endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders. He secured 34 percent in the initial vote and forced a runoff, losing with 44.5 percent of the vote to Emanuel’s 55.5 percent.
In the interim, García has continued his work representing Illinois’ 4th District at the federal level — and he’s hesitant to leave that role given recent upheaval in the United States, he said.
“In all seriousness, I am conflicted because of the responsibility that I have to help save and protect our democracy and our republic,” García said. “The threat against our democracy remains so violent. We’ve been hanging by a thread for the past year now or so. So I’m conflicted.”
García said he loves his job as a congressman, as it’s “exhilarating” and “the greatest honor.”
But García is often floated as a political candidate after decades as a leader in the Chicago area.
García was born in Mexico and moved to the United States in 1965. His family lived in Little Village, and García worked with labor activist Rudy Lozano before he was slain. He’s long advocated for Latino Americans and pushed for reforms to the country’s immigration system, among other progressive policies.
García, a Democrat, was the 22nd Ward’s alderman 1986-1993. He was an ally to then-Mayor Harold Washington during his time in City Council, including toward the end of the infamous Council Wars.
García then served in the Illinois Senate 1993-1999, leaving office after an election defeat.
During García’s time out of office, he led the Little Village Community Development Corporation, now known as Enlace. The group — which is still active — is focused on empowering Little Village residents “to confront systemic inequities and barriers to economic and social access,” according to its website. García and others led a hunger strike in 2001 that pressured Chicago Public Schools into building a community high school.
García served on the Cook County Board of Commissioners 2011-2018. In 2019, he was elected to represent parts of Chicago and the suburbs in Illinois’ 4th District in the House of Representatives.
Some tried to lure García into the 2019 mayoral race, but he ultimately declined to run and endorsed Lightfoot.
If García does run this year, he’ll be among a slew of challengers to Lightfoot, who was first elected in 2019 and who is running for a second term. Already in the race are alds. Sophia King, Roderick Sawyer and Ray Lopez. Paul Vallas, the former CPS CEO and a repeat mayoral contender, has joined the race, as has state Rep. Kam Buckner. Businessman and philanthropist Willie Wilson is running, as is community activist Ja’Mal Green.
The election is in February.
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