US representative Jesus “Chuy” Garcia will run for the second time as mayor of Chicago, potentially the biggest challenge for Mayor Lori Lightfoot as he seeks a second term.
Garcia’s candidacy was once considered a miss due to his comfortable seat in Congress and his behind-the-scenes success as a broker of political power. But Garcia, who had long dreamed of running the third largest city in the country, has decided to take part in the mayoral race in a risky move that could lead him to become Chicago’s first Hispanic mayor or mark him as a loser twice.
In 2015, Garcia pushed Mayor Rahm Emanuel into the city’s first round. Although he lost the campaign, Garcia became a progressive people’s hero and jumped from Cook County Council to the U.S. Congress in 2018 after representative Luis Gutierrez retired.
Garcia enters the race with much acclaim and long track record as a progressive, but will need to extend his support beyond his traditional allies as some unions that backed his fight against Emanuel endorse Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson.
The battle for progressive voters also represents a generational clash between Garcia, who was an ally of Harold Washington in the 1980s, Johnson, and other participants in the race for the mantle of progress, including Aldem. Sophia King and Kambium Buckner State Representative.
Born in Durango, Mexico but raised in Chicago, Garcia was the young protégé of Latin American activist Rudy Lozano, who was a promising political star. Garcia managed the Lozano campaign in 1983 for a 22nd ward councilor, where Lozano was 37 votes short of removing the white veteran incumbent as Little Village was transforming into downtown Chicago’s Latin Latin. Months later, Lozano was m*rdered by a gang member, a tragedy that changed the trajectory of Chicago politics.
With the help of Washington, Garcia won the election to be a member of the 22nd constituency of the Democratic Committee in 1984. He was elected a councilor in the special election in 1986, which he held until he ran for the state senate in 1992. He was re-elected but lost his third term after was targeted for defeat by the Spanish Democratic Organization, a political group allied with Daley.
Garcia then turned his attention to building a nonprofit community organizing group that pressed on voting rights, economic development issues, legal safeguards for undocumented immigrants, preventing violence, and other Latin-related issues.
Now known as Enlace, the government-funded organization made headlines in 2001 with a nearly three-week parental hunger strike that forced city school officials to fulfill their long-overdue promise to build a new high school in Little Village.
Since winning his seat in Congress in 2018, Garcia has expanded his political power far beyond his Southwest Side base. The longtime progressive politician has demonstrated the practicality in recent years, building close ties with now accused former Illinois House of Representatives chairman Michael Madigan, which has helped expand Garcia’s influence and his support is sought by candidates across the city.
Garcia considered running for mayor in 2019 after Emanuel was knocked out of the race, but ultimately decided to decline the offer. Instead, Garcia helped Lightfoot become mayor that year by backing her in a second round against Toni Preckwinkle, chairman of the Cook County Board of Directors, on whose leadership team he served on the county board.
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