Chicago’s mayoral runoff race moved on Sunday to the West Side, where a crowd at an NAACP forum turned on Mayor Rahm Emanuel before warmly embracing his challenger, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
The Chicago Westside NAACP Branch gave Emanuel and Garcia an opportunity to make their cases to voters at Purcell Hall in Garfield Park. The candidates spent roughly an hour each answering questions from a two-person panel.
Emanuel went first, fielding questions about education, street violence, West Side representation on city boards and community participation in city government. But the crowd grew restless as he neared his closing statement and had used examples from other parts of the city to explain his policies.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke first on Sunday at the NAACP’s West Side forum at Purcell Hall, 4300 W. Washington. | Brian Jackson/For the Chicago Sun-Times
One woman in the audience interrupted Emanuel, imploring him to talk “about the West Side. We haven’t heard about Austin, Lawndale,” she said to applause.
The mayor recovered, and he stood to deliver a final comment over the heckling of at least one other dissatisfied voter.
“On April 7, I’m not just asking for your vote,” Emanuel said. “I want you to continue, obviously, to love your city, love your neighborhood and work together to build this great city.
The crowd ultimately applauded for Emanuel. But the dissatisfaction among members of the audience fueled a warm welcome for Garcia, who took the stage minutes later.
Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (left) and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis at the NAACP candidates forum Sunday at Purcell Hall. | Brian Jackson/For the Chicago Sun-Times
“I want to place neighborhoods at the center of city governance,” Garcia told them later in the forum. “Restoring neighborhoods in the city of Chicago should be a paramount concern of the city.”
WBBM-Channel 2’s Dorothy Tucker moderated the forum and posed some questions to the candidates submitted on notecards by members of the audience. Two panelists also asked questions of each candidate. They were Isaac Lewis, publisher and CEO of the North Lawndale community newspaper, and Remel Terry of the Chicago Westside NAACP Branch.
When Emanuel was asked to commit to appointing a West Side resident to the board of education or the park district board, he asked the community to bring names forward. “I’m going to be open to those names,” Emanuel said.
Later he added: “Geography’s important. And experience and desire to make change is important.”
Garcia told the crowd he would reinstate the type of town hall meetings “ushered in under the period of government when [former Mayor] Harold Washington would come out to communities.”
“I think it’s essential in Chicago that we have that type of a relationship with the public,” Garcia said.