Jesús “Chuy” García has started gathering the required 12,500 signatures to run for mayor in 2015.
He had a good mentor and teacher, which is how he described the late Mayor Harold Washington.
“(Washington) really understood the interconnectedness and interdependency of all neighborhoods, and that if we invested in all of Chicago’s neighborhoods, Chicago would be a better place for all,“ García told me in an interview Wednesday.
García campaigned for Washington, who was elected in 1983, and became Chicago's first African American mayor. García was elected an alderman in 1986, a year before Washington died. In 1992, García became the first Mexican-American elected to the Illinois state Senate. He was elected a Cook County Commissioner in 2010.
Investing in neighborhoods and creating an equity agenda are some of the key reasons García mentioned he wanted to run for mayor.
He said the prosperity found downtown should reach neighborhoods all over Chicago.
“The destiny of the city, (and) the well being of the vast majority of people is intertwined. In other words, you can’t have a portion of the city be doing really well, being a very safe place, and then other portions of the city experiencing neglect, abandonment, disinvestment,” García said.
He said he decided to run after Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis dropped out for health reasons. He said he received many calls from supporters who encouraged him to run.
“It was important that the city have a debate about the future,” García said.
García called the school closings ordered by Mayor Rahm Emanuel “unconscionable.”
“The city is ripe for change and people are disaffected with the direction the city has been moving in and as a result we are going to be advancing an alternative that I think can unify Chicago’s neighborhoods,” he added.
García is a progressive and is widely known and respected in the Latino community. If elected, he would be the city’s first Latino mayor. But he wants to represent all Chicagoans.
“It is time to have someone on the 5th floor of City Hall who comes from the neighborhoods, who has done cross ethnic and cross faith organizing and relationship building,” García said.
He said his leadership style would be different than Emanuel.
“I will have the patience to engage, to listen, to accept criticism, something that I think has been lacking,” he added.
García was given an award at an event Wednesday by the Latino Policy Forum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. He did not speak about his running for political office during the event but afterwards he gave interviews to media.
(Full disclosure, my sister Sylvia Puente is the executive director of the Latino Policy Forum. The event’s co-chairs included Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Emanuel, but they were not in attendance. Sponsors of the event also included Bruce and Diana Rauner.)