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Garcia collects endorsements from black leaders

Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, a candidate for mayor of Chicago, opened a campaign office Tuesday at 63rd and Woodlawn. | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

Chicago mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia landed support from more than 100 African-American leaders at a news conference Tuesday, including former Cook County Board President Bobbie Steele, educators and activists.

In endorsing him amid chants of “Chuy, Chuy, Chuy,” they said he has a proven track record in the African-American community.

“Chuy is a coalition builder, community worker, one who listens and works with his constituents,” said Steele, who called on Chicagoans to support him.

She and other black leaders pointed to his work to help elect Mayor Harold Washington mayor and his support of Washington’s agenda, as well as Garcia’s successful efforts in fighting for the building of the Little Village North Lawndale High School. They also cited his more recent efforts passing a Cook County ordinance designed to combat discrimination against those receiving public housing assistance.

Chicago Teachers Union Deputy Political Director Brandon Johnson blasted Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s track record as he endorsed Cook County Commissioner Garcia.

“For the past three-and-a-half years, black Chicago has had to deal with the misery of this mayor,” Johnson said of Emanuel. “There’s a black parent on the South Side of Chicago right now looking for a neighborhood school. There’s a black man on the West Side of Chicago looking for a livable wage. There are black families across the city that are looking for a home that they can live in, and the misery and the anguish and the anxiety that this mayor has caused in this city is shameful, disrespectful. But the good news, it’s coming to an end.”

In voicing support for Garcia, Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine Elementary School in Lake View, told those in attendance of how Garcia fought to make sure when a new high school was built in Little Village, the attendance boundaries included North Lawndale.

“When opportunistic politicians attempted to use divisive nationalism to lobby the community against the inclusion of those students from North Lawndale, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia . . . insisted that those children learn together . . . learn about one another,” LaRaviere said. “. . . More importantly, he insisted that the two communities that were at the heart of this, North Lawndale and Little Village, that they could build a relationship with one another through the schools.

“What we have now is not a mayor who builds relationships through schools, but tears down community relationships by closing schools.”

The room was filled with some of the same Progressive Party coalition members who elected Washington, when no one believed Washington would win, noted retired Illinois First District Appellate Court Judge John Steele.

“We claim victory,” John Steele said. “The Progressive Party is going to stand behind you right now.”

In welcoming the endorsements, which took place at a newly opened Woodlawn campaign office, Garcia said he plans to open seven offices throughout the city and work to get his message out to all voters.

He was humbled by the endorsements, he said as he revealed his campaign has raised close to $1 million. That’s only a tenth of the roughly $10 million Emanuel has in his war chest. But Garcia, who noted 1,000 of his supporters collected some 63,000 signatures in three weeks to land him on the ballot, contended his campaign doesn’t need to match Emanuel’s war chest.

Just as his supporters went door to door to collect those signatures, “we will deploy our volunteers and our army to reach everyone in the city of Chicago,” he said. “We will raise the resources necessary to deliver our message, to be fully staffed on Election Day, to get out the vote, and we will do it through people . . . through just enough financial resources to ensure that every registered voter in Chicago hears about our campaign.”

Garcia told the gathering they are “a key partner in bringing a coalition of all Chicagoans together that will . . . put the city on a different course that addresses the most vital things for community improvement. . . . [Chicago] cannot be a city that is truly great unless all of its neighborhoods feel the prosperity that Chicago has the potential to achieve. Key to that prosperity will be having good public schools in every neighborhood, safe neighborhoods that everyone can feel that they can walk in, they can grow old in, they can work, they can play, they can learn . . . neighborhoods that begin to produce the conditions for economic vitality.”

Garcia shared that the African-American representatives standing with him include people who have stressed to him “the art of doing the right thing in life. They are the people who have taught me if you want a legacy in life, you must be about action . . . you have to treat people with respect. You must be inclusive . . . a good listener . . . you must always be respectful, even with people who have differing views from you.”