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Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia gives a concession speech after losing the race for mayor.

Carol Marin: Chuy really started something in Chicago

SHARE Carol Marin: Chuy really started something in Chicago
SHARE Carol Marin: Chuy really started something in Chicago

Jesus Chuy Garcia doesn’t look or act like a guy who lost an election.As he walked into the Nueva Leon Restaurant in Chicago’s Little Village on Wednesday morning, the challenger defeated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel carried himself the way he always has. Reserved. But relaxed.It’s been two weeks since the election, so how are you?OPINION

“I’m good,” he answers. “I feel very good about the campaign. I feel like we made a contribution to Chicago. We made it interesting. We kept people honest. We impacted the City Council. . . . That’s exciting.”Nail biting, in fact.You need only ask Susan Sadlowski Garza, the insurgent victor in the 10th Ward race against long-entrenched alderman and Emanuel ally John Pope.What was the margin of her victory?Twenty — count them — votes.The 10th Ward on Chicago’s Southeast Side is one of the city’s largely forgotten zones. Sixty-six percent Hispanic. A blue-collar land of city workers, cops, firemen and former industrial workers. Those displaced workers are still in search of the same kind of good-paying jobs that once belonged to this Steel Belt neighborhood. But that was before the rust set in.The 10th Ward lives right up against the shores of Lake Michigan. A place that, if it were farther north, could command $3 million for a condo. But because it is south and east, can barely commandeer a laundromat to serve people here.This is one of Chicago’s many neighborhoods you won’t find in tourist brochures.But it could be.The optics are fantastic.The opportunities? Not so much.That is why Susan Sadlowski Garza, child of the labor movement and of a legendary union-organizing father, won. But not without the help of Chuy Garcia. And not without the distrust, if not outright disgust, aimed at City Hall.“Chuy lit a fire in people,” said Garza. “And it will continue to grow. Surprisingly, all that is happening with the [federal investigation of the] school board disclosed just a week after the election. It’s too bad that didn’t come out sooner.”Alderman-elect Garza is 55 years old. And for 46 of her 55 years, she has been within the walls of the Jane Addams Elementary School on 108th Street as a student, as a parent and today as a counselor.She — and Chuy Garcia — managed in the 10th Ward, and elsewhere in the city, to make a difference, to create a small revolution inside a still-swaggering city machine.That swagger was lessened thanks to a historic runoff for mayor and 18 aldermanic races.And while the mayor won and the challenger lost, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia achieved a highly respectable 44 percent of the vote despite the mayor’s overwhelming cash advantage.And while the City Council’s pro-Emanuel majority is still intact, it has been lessened by the victories of independents.Rahm Emanuel claims to have heard the message.It would be great if he considered giving the new alderman of the 10th ward a congratulatory call.Email: carolmarin@aol.comTwitter: @CarolMarin

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