Why Chicago is ready for a Latino mayor

Why Chicago is ready for a Latino mayor

The question on Tuesday is whether Mayor Rahm Emanuel will win re-election with 50 percent plus one of the vote or whether he will face an April run off against Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” García.

García has been gaining in the polls and is expected to place second.

Just as Harold Washington won election in 1983 to the surprise of the mainstream media and the political machine, García and Emanuel's other opponents could surprise the city with enough combined votes to force García into a runoff against Emanuel.

Across the city I am seeing supporters for García but it is not just coming from the Latino community.

They are many progressives and union members - white and black - who support García (a former state senator and alderman) who has long been a coalition builder and an advocate for the city’s neighborhoods.

There are many reasons why Chicago is ready for a Latino mayor like García.

Chicago has the fifth largest Hispanic population in the U.S. and around 29 percent of its residents are Latino.

We have the potential for more political power. There are eight Latino aldermen on the City Council but if there were parity we would have as many as 15. Latinos could gain two aldermanic seats in the 15th and 36th wards in this election.

Latinos comprise the largest number of children in Chicago public schools, 45 percent, and they too were impacted by the closing of more than 50 public schools under Emanuel.

Latinos also have growing economic power in the state. The number of Latino households with incomes of $75,000 or higher has more than doubled since 2000.

Around 75 percent of all Latinos in the state are U.S. citizens and over 93 percent of Illinois Latinos under the age of 18 are U.S. citizens.

If we don’t get a Latino mayor this time, it will be inevitable as the Latino population in Chicago continues to grow and so will the number of eligible voters.

In 2015, it will take more than just Latinos to elect a mayor.

It could be García’s time.

But even if he loses, the day will eventually come when another García, or a Rodriguez, or a Morales, or a Ramos, becomes mayor of this city of "broad shoulders" built up by immigrants.

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