With City Hall as a backdrop, Cook County Clerk David Orr stood with mayoral contender Jesus “Chuy” Garcia on Sunday and anointed him as the progressive alternative to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his top-down style.
He “is humble, which is unusual for a politician,” Orr said when he was asked why Garcia — who is also a Cook County commissioner — would be a better mayor than Emanuel. He’s “someone who will listen to people, someone who understands.”
Then Orr tweaked the mayor, who has an enormous fundraising advantage over Garcia but who Chicagoans have expressed dissatisfaction with in public opinion polls.
“The mayor, with millions, has a hard time getting signatures on his petitions. Chuy Garcia in three weeks time, spending no money — all volunteers — got 60-some thousand,” Orr said. “In another week, they probably would have gotten 90,000.”
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Orr forecast an unexpected wave of progressive voters would soon line up to support Garcia. The grassroots Democratic movement has swept mayors into office in cities such as New York, Seattle and Pittsburgh.
“I think there is a groundswell that people aren’t seeing,” said Orr, who briefly served as mayor after Harold Washington’s death in 1987 before the City Council appointed Eugene Sawyer.
“We have progressive mayors [in cities] around the [U.S.] — Chicago is not one of them,” Orr said. “Chuy is just like these people all across the country . . . where the people said ‘We need someone who really understands and works for all the people.’”
Steve Mayberry, a spokesman for Emanuel’s re-election campaign, declined to comment on Orr’s remarks. Michael Kolenc, a spokesman for Ald. Bob Fioretti, who is also running for mayor under the progressive mantle, also declined to comment.
While Fioretti announced his candidacy prior to Garcia, it is Garcia who has snatched up recent progressive endorsements. In addition to Orr, Garcia was endorsed by Karen Lewis, the charismatic Chicago Teachers Union president. Lewis had considered challenging Emanuel until she was diagnosed with a brain tumor in October.
“People jump out of the woodwork, because despite the cynicism we all face, people believe in a better city. They believe in making a difference,” Orr said. “I believe Chuy is the kind of person that can show people that there is trust and goodness and hope to make the city a better place for everybody.”
Garcia and Fioretti frequently mention the plight of “neighborhoods” while they campaign, an effort to tap a perceived lack of commitment by the mayor to improving all of the city’s neighborhoods.
“Chicago can only be a great city if it has great neighborhoods,” Garcia said Sunday. “We’re bringing together all of Chicago’s neighborhoods, all of its hard-working people and involving them in a process of establishing a new set of priorities.”
He also tied recent nationwide protests against police brutality — including one last week outside Emanuel’s fifth-floor city hall office — into that same neighborhood-centric message.
“We need to invest in the neighborhoods that are hurting the most,” Garcia said. “It’s a message to the mayor, to the City Council, to elected officials in Cook County also, that we need to understand what is going on here. But at the root of it is the distrust that there has been because there hasn’t been a commitment to community policing.”