WASHINGTON – Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, Democratic National Committee chairman and presidential candidate endorsed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia over Rahm Emanuel for Chicago mayor on Thursday.

Important back story: When Emanuel was the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he stuck it to Dean in 2006 – when Dean was the DNC chair. Emanuel  wanted Dean to funnel millions of dollars to help House candidates. Emanuel taunted Dean’s “50 State Strategy” and a leaked story about how little Emanuel thought of Dean found its way into print.

Now, back to the present: Enough with the payback. What could this mean?

Dean throwing himself in the mix adds a high-profile progressive voice to Garcia’s team and hits at Emanuel’s vulnerability that was so apparent in the February primary – Emanuel’s lack of a strong ground game to spur turnout in wards where he had supporters.

Dean can help mobilize and energize grass-root Garcia backers.

While the organization Dean founded, Democracy for America, already was backing Garcia, having Dean himself speak up takes it up a few notches, even as his endorsement comes as no surprise.

In a statement Dean said, “When I ran for president in 2004, I told supporters in my stump speech that I represented the ‘Democratic wing of the Democratic Party’ — a line inspired by Paul Wellstone that captured the spirit of my grassroots campaign.

“Jesús ‘Chuy’ García is running a similar people-powered campaign in Chicago and that’s why I am proud to announce that I am endorsing him as the progressive choice to be Chicago’s next mayor.”  

In a fundraising email Dean sent out, he alluded to Emanuel’s multimillion-dollar war chest. “In the February 24 primary, the 1% in Chicago raised more than $25 million in an attempt to re-elect the mayor outright and defeat the seven progressive aldermen that Democracy for America endorsed. However, they failed to do so because DFA members like you, working with progressive activists on the ground in Chicago, built people-powered campaigns that overcame millions of dollars in attack ads.”