Former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy on Friday refused to confirm or deny that he will jump into the 2019 race for mayor next week, emboldened by internal polling that shows him neck-and-neck with the mayor who fired him.
“We’re not commenting,” McCarthy told the Chicago Sun-Times, via text messaging. He repeatedly refused to say more in a follow-up phone call.
A source close to the McCarthy campaign said the former superintendent will announce his candidacy next Wednesday or Thursday by releasing a video shot in recent days of McCarthy touring Chicago neighborhoods. The announcement will be timed to coincide with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s trip to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
McCarthy has set up a website, held a fundraiser and commissioned a poll that will help him decide whether he can win in a race against Emanuel, who fired him just days after the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video claiming McCarthy had become a “distraction.” McCarthy spent much of the $49,184 he raised last year on the poll.
Earlier this week, sources told the Sun-Times that McCarthy was extremely encouraged by poll results that clearly demonstrated how vulnerable Emanuel is and how difficult it will be for the mayor to persuade Chicago voters to give him a third chance.
Sources said the McCarthy poll shows Emanuel and McCarthy “neck-and-neck.” It gauged the popularity of McCarthy, Emanuel, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas and Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer.
Former CPS principal Troy LaRaviere has also launched a fundraising website.
Vallas told reporters last month he intended to enter the 2019 race for mayor, so long as he can raise enough money to get his message out. But he has since been hit by a devastating personal tragedy: the death of his youngest son, 24-year-old Mark Vallas.
Gainer is running for re-election to the county board but she hasn’t ruled out a race for mayor.
If McCarthy runs, the violent crime that he claims has been out of control since he was fired and the police shooting of Laquan McDonald that triggered that firing are certain to be front and center.
Last month, McCarthy charged that he was the victim of a political “witch hunt” engineered by top mayoral aides to mask the fact that the “entirety of that cover-up” of the Laquan McDonald shooting video “occurred at City Hall.”
In a free-wheeling interview on the WTTW-TV Channel 11 program, “Chicago Tonight,” McCarthy compared Emanuel’s quick-trigger firing to the leadership stability that followed what McCarthy called the “quote-unquote `illegal chokehold death’” of Eric Garner in New York City.
“The NYPD and city government in New York didn’t just reverse course. They didn’t fire Bill Bratton. They didn’t conduct a political witch hunt in the department to say that we’re tough on cops. They didn’t fire people based upon minor disciplines in the past that suddenly become fatal,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy was asked then whether he truly believes he was the “victim of a witch hunt” when the mayor demanded his resignation.
“Maybe. I like to think of it as what you’re going to see over and over again: `Look at the squirrel,’ ” he said.
“People said that I was a distraction. What does that mean? The simple fact is, I was allowed by law to take one action in the Van Dyke case. That was to put him on paid desk duty. The entirety of that cover-up occurred in City Hall.”
Pressed to define “cover-up,” McCarthy said, “I believe the [shooting] video was not released and the circumstances of that video not being released was purposely done for political reasons.”
Peter Giangreco, a spokesperson for the Emanuel campaign, said then that McCarthy’s claims about a City Hall cover-up contradict what he told the City Club in an appearance on Sept. 19, 2016.
Asked at that time about a cover-up, McCarthy said: “The mayor was not in control of what was happening with that video.” McCarthy noted that then-Corporation Counsel Steve Patton was “fighting a lawsuit” aimed at compelling the city to release the video.
“Conspiracy theories can be fun, right? JFK, Lincoln, Warren Commission, you name it. But that’s simply not the case here. The mayor did not have the capacity to prevent that video from going out,” he said then.
“Garry McCarthy, the former police commander, said the mayor was not in control of releasing the McDonald video. Garry McCarthy, the politician, is now making a Trump-like departure from his own account of his role and the truth,” Giangreco said.