CHICAGO (AP) — Days after he easily won reelection to Congress, U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia announced on Thursday that he will join an already crowded field of candidates hoping to unseat Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot as she runs for a second term.
Garcia has for years made known his desire to lead Chicago and he ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015 in the city's first runoff election. He instantly becomes one of the leading contenders in the 2023 race thanks to his popularity as a congressman and a history that includes time as an alderman on the City Council and as a member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners.
If elected, the 66-year-old Garcia, a native of Mexico who arrived in Chicago when he was 9 years old, would become the first Latino mayor of the nation's third largest city.
Garcia was first elected to Congress in 2018 to represent Illinois' 4th Congressional District, which covers Chicago's Southwest and Northwest sides and includes parts of some western suburbs. He takes on a mayor whom he helped get elected when he endorsed her in a runoff against Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
In a video announcing his candidacy, Garcia sounded a theme similar to already-declared candidates who have described Lightfoot as a divisive figure who has alienated some members of the City Council and others since she was elected in 2019. Without naming Lightfoot, Garcia said Chicago “needs a mayor that will bring us together and unite us instead of driving us apart.”
“Folks know me. … They know what I’ve done. I know we will eventually get their support," he told the Chicago Sun-Times. "No one in Chicago politics today has been involved in fighting the old corrupt and racist and sexist Chicago Machine (longer) than myself.”
And when he met with the media on Thursday to make his official announcement, he portrayed himself as the candidate who can tackle some of the city's most pressing problems.
“Now is the time to revitalize our neighborhoods, strengthen our schools and bring safety back to our streets because we believe in a Chicago for everyone, a welcoming Chicago, the same Chicago that welcomed me as a 9-year old immigrant boy and gave me a fighting chance to dream big,” Garcia said.
While acknowledging Garcia’s promise to run for mayor only if Republicans win a majority in the House of Representatives, Lightfoot's campaign still characterized the decision as a selfish move by a “career politician.” The GOP was inching closer to a narrow House majority Thursday.
“As Republicans prepare to use their new slim majority to strip away our rights, Mr. Garcia is abandoning ship and going after a fellow progressive Democrat,” the Chicago Tribune quoted the campaign as saying.
Garcia joins a field that includes, among others, City Council members Sophia King, Raymond Lopez and Roderick Sawyer; Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, and State Rep. Kam Buckner. Also running are former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, community activist Ja'Mal Green and Willie Wilson, a wealthy businessman. A two-time mayoral candidate who has also run for U.S. Senate, Wilson is perhaps best known for giving away millions of dollars to people to help pay their taxes and, most recently, buy gasoline.