Democratic Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García announced on Thursday that he is running again for Chicago mayor, joining the increasingly crowded pool of candidates looking to unseat incumbent Lori Lightfoot.
“It is quite evident that the winds of change are blowing across … Chicago this morning,” the Illinois congressman said at a kickoff event.
García first made his run public in an interview with The Chicago Sun-Times, in which he said he hopes he can unite the progressive movement that he’s participated in all his life. The Mexican immigrant who arrived in Chicago as a child has since served in the City Council, the Illinois state Senate, the Cook County Board and Congress — becoming somewhat of a kingmaker for progressives both locally and nationally.
“Little Village on the Southwest Side has been my home for over 55 years. It’s where I met the love of my life, my wife Evelyn, and it’s where we raised our three children,” García said in a campaign video of the predominantly Latino neighborhood. “And I say, now is the time to revitalize our communities, strengthen our schools and bring safety back to our streets.
“That’s why I’m announcing my campaign for mayor of Chicago. I believe in a Chicago for everyone — the same Chicago that welcomed me as a 9-year-old immigrant boy and gave me a chance to dream big.”
García, who just won his third term in Congress on Tuesday, has long wanted to lead Chicago. His announcement on Thursday marks the second time the progressive is running for mayor, the first being in 2015 when he pushed former Mayor Rahm Emanuel into a runoff that García eventually lost.
Despite the loss, García’s campaign helped him rise as a progressive star and power broker. Instead of running for mayor again in 2018, García was elected to Congress after Rep. Luis Gutierrez retired. Combined with his name recognition and long progressive history, García could pose one of the biggest challenges to Lightfoot — potentially becoming the first Latino mayor of a city that’s seeing an exponential rise in Hispanic population.
“As our movement did 40 years ago when Harold Washington announced his run for mayor, we’re standing together to say it’s time for City Hall to work on behalf of all its people,” he said of Chicago’s first Black mayor, whom García served as an ally and friend. The congressman’s announcement falls on the same day Washington launched his historic mayoral campaign.
“A mayor that will bring us together and unite us instead of driving us apart,” García said, indirectly digging at Lightfoot’s well-known combativeness with virtually everyone she works with. “I intend to be that mayor, a mayor for all. That’s what this campaign is all about: building a brighter future for Chicago together. I hope you will join me.”
García ended up giving Lightfoot an important endorsement in her 2019 mayoral run against Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle — something the congressman now regrets.
“I gave Lori Lightfoot a chance to deliver on promises she made as it relates to reform and she has not delivered,” he told the Sun-Times.
In his campaign video, García said he plans to focus on public safety, unemployment, affordable housing and the city’s “painful history of inequity.” He also told the Sun-Times that would accelerate the city’s alternate response programs for situations that don’t require police officers, and address Lightfoot’s broken promises to reopen closed mental health clinics and revive the Department of Environment.
“While Mayor Lightfoot is doing the hard work of leading our city through challenging times, career politician Congressman García is prioritizing his own ambitions,” Lightfoot campaign spokeswoman Christina Freundlich said. “Mr. García spent months dithering on whether to get in this race, saying publicly he’d only run if Democrats lost the House.
“Now, a mere 36 hours after voters reelected him to Congress, and as Republicans prepare to use their new slim majority to strip away our rights, Mr. García is abandoning ship and going after a fellow progressive Democrat,” she continued. “That’s not the tough, principled leadership our city needs.”
García is launching his mayoral campaign notably late, a disadvantage when the pool of now 10 candidates already includes several progressives who have significant endorsements he would need to boost his place in the race. In a city that birthed the labor movement, major groups like the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 73 are highly influential in political races.
Many of those labor unions and progressive groups who supported García’s mayoral bid in 2015 — including CTU — have already publicly endorsed Cook County commissioner Brandon Johnson for mayor, who said he will not drop out to make way for García. CTU also said it will not rescind its endorsement of Johnson.
The Chicago mayoral race is expected to take place in February.