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Jesus ‘Chuy’ García Announces Run For Mayor, Challenging Lori Lightfoot

García's announcement comes on the 40th anniversary of the day his ally, former Mayor Harold Washington, made his own campaign announcement.

Jesus "Chuy" Garcia announced that he's running for mayor of Chicago Thursday morning at Navy Pier.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Jesus “Chuy” García entered the Chicago mayoral race Thursday, the most well-known candidate so far to challenge Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

García — a U.S. representative who is widely known in Chicago politics — announced Thursday morning he’ll run for mayor. His announcement comes on the 40th anniversary of the day former Mayor Harold Washington made his own campaign announcement.

A large crowd welcomed García at Offshore Rooftop at Navy Pier, with many chanting, “Sí, se puede” — “Yes, we can.”

“It is quite evident that the winds of change are blowing across the city of Chicago this morning,” García said during his announcement speech.

García is expected to be a formidable opponent to Lightfoot, who was already facing a host of slew of challengers, including three members of City Council. And the congressman took direct aim at Lightfoot out the gate, telling the Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman he made a mistake in previously endorsing Lightfoot and plans to fire her police superintendent, David Brown, if elected.

García was surrounded at his announcement by Chicago politicians and organizers, including state Rep. Theresa Mah, former U.S. Rep. Luis Guitérez, and former alderman and former Sun-Times CEO Edwin Eisendrath.

During Thursday’s campaign speech, García said he’ll focus on revitalizing Chicago so it can be a place to grow for all residents. He said he’s made a home in Little Village for decades, meeting his wife, Evelyn García, there and raising their three children together. He wants that for others, he said.

“When I walk down 26th Street, I see the hustle and bustle … . I feel at home. I feel proud,” García said. “But Chicago is at a crossroads. It’s not like that for everyone.

“Chicago needs a leader with a vision of our future and the know-how and the empathy to get us there together. From crime to unemployment to the shortage of affordable housing, there is so much we need to build. As we emerge from a glob al pandemic and a racial reckoning that exposed the painful history of inequity in our city. People are still living paycheck-to-paycheck, and folks are still in fear of losing their homes, their livelihoods and, yes, their loved ones.”

García said he’ll ensure development is equitably spread across the neighborhoods, will work to attract businesses and will keep manufacturing in the city.

“We should be able to look across our skyline and see cranes and new growth as well as equitable development in our neighborhoods, bringing new, good-paying union jobs, new retail and new vitality to our city,” García said. “I want to see our city grow and thrive. And I want to see our children and grandchildren raise families right here in Chicago, to be able to dream of starting a small business or buying their first home.”

But that also means the city must tackle its problems with violence, García said. He promised to invest in community-building efforts, work to rebuild trust between communities and police, provide mental health services to residents and officers and promote diversity in hiring in the Police Department.

García said he’d also push for accountability and transparency for officers who “don’t protect and serve.”

García said he’d also ensure Chicago “leads the way” to fight climate change and promotes equitable growth — while working to ensure neighborhoods with large Black and Brown communities don’t become “dumping grounds for polluters.” Chicago should have “new, well-kept green spaces and parks,” as well as clean air and water for all children, he said.

And gentrification that pushes out longtime neighbors should not become an inevitable part of development in the city, García said.

“Together, let’s get Chicago back on track,” García said. “Together, let’s build a Chicago for all.”

García also pointed to his long political experience, saying he’s served in City Council as an alderman, was on the Cook County Board of Commissioners, has served at the state level Springfield and now represents portions of Chicago in Washington, D.C.

“Folks know me,” García told the Sun-Times. “They know what I’ve done. I know we will eventually get their support. I’m the only guy left from the Harold Washington coalition.

“… No one in Chicago politics today has been involved in fighting the old corrupt and racist and sexist Chicago Machine [longer] than myself.”

García also told the Sun-Times he made a mistake in endorsing Lightfoot during her 2019 campaign for City Hall’s top spot, saying she’s broken promised and been combative.

“I gave Lori Lightfoot a chance to deliver on promises she made as it relates to reform and she has not delivered,” García said, according to the paper.

García said he’d fire police Supt. David Brown as part of a new strategy to fight crime in Chicago, a key campaign point for many of Lightfoot’s challengers.

Other lawmakers and organizers lining up to support García included State Senator Celina Villanueva, State Rep. Aarón Ortíz, State Rep. Edgar Gonzalez Jr., Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd), Ald. Felix Cardona (31st) and former Chicago Teachers Union spokesperson Stephanie Gadlin.

García told reporters in September he was considering running for mayor, but he said he was hesitant to give up his role as a congressman. On Tuesday, he soundly won his congressional reelection bid, collecting more than 67 percent.

But García has long been floated as a potential mayoral candidate, and he could pose a serious threat to incumbent Lightfoot with his name recognition and political experience. He ran for the office in 2015, nabbing an endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders and famously forcing then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel into a runoff.

A poll released in October showed García beating Lightfoot in a potential runoff election. The poll’s respondents were 616 Chicagoans who were contacted via landline and text messages, according to the Sun-Times. It was bankrolled by García.

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 22nd Ward 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.

García is 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 Raymond Lopez. Paul Vallas, the former CPS CEO and a repeat mayoral contender, has joined the race, as has state Rep. Kam Buckner and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson. Businessman and philanthropist Willie Wilson is running, as is community activist Ja’Mal Green.

The election is in February.

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