Declared mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia promised to unite Chicago’s neighborhoods Sunday as he set out to challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel in February.
Garcia’s supporters rallied at Alhambra Palace Restaurant on the Near West Side as the Cook County commissioner announced he’d gathered more than 60,000 signatures that he said he’d deliver to the Chicago Board of Election on Monday afternoon. Mayoral candidates must have at least 12,500 signatures.
Amid chants of “Chu-y, Chu-y,” Garcia took another jab at the mayor’s closing of 50 schools.
“That’s the difference between me and the present administration,” Garcia said Sunday. “We believe in opening schools up.”
Just Friday, Garcia blasted the mayor over the move, portraying the incumbent as a big-money “Washington insider” who lacks the “temperament” to “listen and engage” everyday Chicagoans.
A spokesman for Emanuel said Sunday the decision to close a school is “very difficult.”
“But we cannot shy away from difficult decisions to move Chicago forward, to keep the rising graduation rates, the longer school day, and the full-day kindergarten,” Steve Mayberry said. “Last week, Commissioner Garcia said he would have closed some schools. Today, he says he would open them. In neither case did he offer any specifics. Voters deserve detailed, thoughtful plans, not inconsistent rhetoric from the sidelines.”
Garcia jumped into the mayoral fray late last month, hoping to appeal to Emanuel critics disappointed that County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis did not run.
Lewis bowed out of the race after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. But days after Garcia declared his candidacy, Lewis used her first public comments since undergoing brain surgery to endorse him.
Garcia has argued that the Michael Reese Hospital site would be better for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art than 17 acres of free lakefront park land. And he promised to reduce the number of red-light and speed cameras, acknowledging he’s been nailed by them.
He also said Friday it’s time to take a “hard look” at legalizing and taxing marijuana. Emanuel has ridiculed that position.