Garcia poll shows him beating Lightfoot in two-way race

The poll of 616 likely Chicago voters was conducted last week by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, N.C. Half were contacted on landlines, the rest on cell phones via text message.

SHARE Garcia poll shows him beating Lightfoot in two-way race
Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, concedes to Mayor Rahm Emanuel April 7, 2015, in Chicago’s first mayoral runoff election.

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, concedes to Mayor Rahm Emanuel April 7, 2015, in Chicago’s first mayoral runoff election. A new poll conducted for Garcia has him leaning toward running again.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Ill.) would easily defeat Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a runoff — and he’s the only top challenger who’d win a head-to-head match-up, according to a new poll, bankrolled by Garcia, that could make it more likely he will join the race.

“It’s further encouragement to consider taking the dive into the race. ... If I sense that there is a way forward and that I can win the support of people across Chicagoland, I’m inclined to do so,” Garcia, whose supporters have been circulating his nominating petitions for weeks, told the Sun-Times Monday.

“Getting a strong mandate from voters across Chicago would be important. Finding the financial resources to run an effective campaign is another consideration and, of course, I’m working on that,” he added. “Chicago is facing some very serious challenges that will require that everyone lend a hand and be involved in moving the city forward.”

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On Tuesday, Garcia added further fuel to the fire by forming a new political committee, “Friends of Chuy Garcia.” Under “purpose of the political committee,” the statement of organization says: “To support the candidacy of Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for Mayor of the City of Chicago.”

The poll of 616 likely Chicago voters was conducted Oct. 26-27 for Public Policy Polling, a Raleigh, N.C. firm.

Half those surveyed were questioned on landlines, the rest on cell phones via text message.

The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points. Respondents were weighted by racial, ethnic and gender groups to mirror Chicago’s population.

The poll was paid for by Garcia’s congressional campaign committee and will be an in-kind contribution to his State Central Committeeman fund. 

Pitted against all challengers, Lightfoot has 22% of the vote to Garcia’s 14%. After that, businessman Willie Wilson has 12%; former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, 8%; Ald. Ray Lopez, 7%; Ald. Tom Tunney, 4%; Ald. Sophia King (4th) and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, both at 3%; and 25% “not sure.”

Johnson declared his candidacy on the second day of polling, possibly affecting his showing.

Brandon Johnson kicked off his campaign for mayor of Chicago on Thursday morning, Oct. 27, 2022 in Seward Park, 375 W. Elm St.

Brandon Johnson kicked off his campaign for mayor of Chicago on Thursday in Seward Park, 375 W. Elm St.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The crowded field makes it virtually impossible for anyone to surpass 50%, which means a run-off — where the head-to-head match-ups are even more telling.

That’s when Garcia pulls away, with 43% to Lightfoot’s 34%, and 23% undecided.

In other two-way races, Vallas is inside the margin of error, but Lightfoot still wins, 39% to 36%, with 25% percent “not sure.” Lightfoot leads Wilson 43% to 35%, and beats Johnson 41% to 23%.

Lightfoot is viewed “very” or “somewhat” favorably by only 38% of those surveyed.

That means she is 12% “under water” and, therefore, could have a tough time getting to the 50%-plus-one threshold needed to win in either round.

Of those surveyed, 56% have a “very” or “somewhat” unfavorable view of Lightfoot’s performance as mayor. In North Side wards key to her 2019 victory, only 9% have a “very favorable” view. Her strongest “very favorable” number is 31% in South Side wards.

In other areas of the city, that “very favorable” view is held by 3% of voters in Far Northwest Side wards; 5% on the Southwest Side; 17% on the Northwest Side; and 19% on the West Side.

Johnson just got a $1 million contribution from the American Federation of Teachers on top of an earlier, $125,000 donation from the group ’s Illinois affiliate. He’s already been endorsed by United Working Families, his brethren at the Chicago Teachers Union and by independent political groups affiliated with both groups in four Northwest Side wards: the 30th, 33rd, 35th and 39th.

Garcia had asked the United Working Families party committee to defer its mayoral endorsement, but the group refused because Garcia was unwilling to give them a timeline for his decision.

Sources close to CTU ruled out the possibility of the teachers union reconsidering its endorsement of Johnson — even if Garcia enters the race

In 2015, Garcia’s charismatic and energetic campaign forced then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel into Chicago’s first mayoral runoff. Emanuel survived with 56% of the vote, outspending Garcia nearly 4-to-1.

The CTU contributed $500,000 to Garcia in that campaign. Scores of CTU members worked on Garcia’s campaign.

On Monday, Garcia was asked if he would enter the race without his most formidable supporters in the progressive movement and how he’ll raise the millions he’ll need without his biggest benefactors at CTU and SEIU.

“This is a big city and there are small donors across the city. There are small businesses and big businesses. There’s a robust civic sector that could also be generous. ... And of course, there’s still other potential labor potential to be sought,” the congressman said.

But, he quickly added: “I’ve been in this electoral arena for 40 years. I’ve learned to be patient and respectful of everyone, especially my allies.”

Garcia promised to decide after the Nov. 8 mid-term elections, and was clear he would run only if Democrats lose control of the U.S. House.

“I won’t do anything to jeopardize our majority if we’re able to keep it — and I hope we do,” he said.

Johnson said he was not surprised or intimidated by the results of Garcia’s poll — and he’s not dropping out.

“The question is, will he [Garcia] get out of the way of the movement? That’s the question. Chuy has an opportunity here to join hand-in-hand with Black, Brown and white folks and Asians across this city that have already said that my leadership is what this city is looking for and what it needs,” Johnson said.

“Progressives across this city have already made the determination that I am the best person to lead this city and I’m in the best possible position to win. Folks are gonna get to know me because the movement knows I’m in the best possible position to build a multi-cultural, multi-generational movement that’s gonna bring the type of transformation that the residents of this city have been longing for for a generation now,” he added.

“I am uniquely qualified as a teacher as an organizer as an elected official to do what past administrations have refused to do or were not competent enough to do.”

Johnson said he’s “reminded of the history” of what happened in 1982, when the “same doubters and naysayers” told Harold Washington he could not win.

“Folks wanted him to stand down,” Johnson said, and tried “to force one of the most progressive leaders that this country has ever had out of the race.”

He added: “This is also very reminiscent of Obama and Hillary [Clinton]. People expected Obama to stand down because they believed it was … her turn or that she had earned her right because she had been around longer. Whether it’s Harold, whether it’s Obama or whether it’s someone like myself, you will constantly be faced with people who do not want to see transformation.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated since publication to better describe the Public Policy Polling firm.

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