Mayoral challenger Bob Fioretti (2nd) on Monday sloughed off County Clerk David Orr’s endorsement of progressive rival Jesus “Chuy” Garcia as a political favor to an old friend.
“He had to do what he had to do…. He was in a position that he felt that was necessary…. They go back for years. So be it,” Fioretti said.
“He [Orr] is right. There is a groundswell. But, I feel it’s really coming over to me. Wherever we go across this city, we’re met with a very receptive audience. People [who] are unemployed, people [who] are employed, city workers. They know that I have their back and I’m gonna be fighting for them — not only when I’m here in the City Council, but when I’m mayor.”
Orr and Garcia are former Chicago aldermen who served together as City Council allies of the late Mayor Harold Washington.
After Washington died in November 1987, Orr served briefly as Chicago’s interim mayor — long enough to get his portrait on the wall of mayors in the reception area of Emanuel’s office on the 5th floor of City Hall.
On Monday, Fioretti was asked whether the high-profile endorsement for a progressive challenger who already has charismatic Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis on his side would make it harder for Fioretti to raise the money he needs to compete with Emanuel’s $9 million-and-counting.
“I don’t think it was that high-profile. It took the day away. That was it,” Fioretti said of Orr.
“We were out in the neighborhoods…. There is a movement happening out there…. I didn’t expect David Orr’s endorsement in the first place. I’m gonna have the people who are endorsing me. That’s what matters in this race.”
Fioretti was asked why he would be better for Hispanic voters than Garcia, a Mexican-American.
“I have fought for issues that affect those in our community — whether’s it’s health care, better schools or making sure we have enough police,” he said.
“I don’t know where some of these people have been. All the sudden, they call me up and say, ‘I’m gonna be for more jobs.’ Where’s everybody been?”
Fioretti then took a shot at Garcia for failing to use his clout as County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s floor leader to champion a county-wide minimum wage of $15 an hour — even if the higher wage is confined to unincorporated areas of the county.
“People ought to be looking at what they do in their own backyard…. We’re talking $15 an hour. Where was the county? What have they done on this issue?” Fioretti said.
“They should have been raising the same issue in county board meetings….How many liquor licenses do they have in unincorporated areas? It’s pretty significant. They have a number of bars. They have a number of restaurants. They have a number of businesses that could all be affected by it. This is not just what Chicago does. This is what we do as a region, too.”
In endorsing Garcia over Fioretti, Orr portrayed his longtime friend as a humble politician who will “listen to people,” a welcome alternative to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s heavy-handed, top-down management style.
“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.”
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,” Orr said Sunday.
“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.’”