Former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) on Tuesday endorsed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in the April 7 runoff in an appeal to African-American voters tailor-made to counter President Barack Obama’s support for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Jones is widely known as Obama’s political godfather. He served together with Garcia in the Illinois Senate and got elected Illinois Senate President with Garcia’s support.
Emanuel and Garcia have been in a battle for endorsements that, they hope, will influence African-American voters who are expected to decide the runoff.
Emanuel got 42.8 percent of the black vote in Round One, down from 58 percent four years ago, thanks to residual anger from the mayor’s 50 school closings, downtown-centric development and his failure to get a handle on persistent crime.
Garcia got 24.5 percent of the African-American vote.
Jones last made headlines as chairman of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. There, he helped engineer the political power play that former Gov. Pat Quinn used to muscle his former campaign manager into the authority’s $160,000-a-year executive director job.
“I know Chuy Garcia, a decent, humble man who believes in this city. … I stand with the 55 percent of the people who voted on Feb. 24 and said, `We need a new mayor,’” Jones told reporters at a South Side coffee shop.
“He’s right on the issues. That’s the most important thing. He tells the truth and he’s a humble person. He’s not abrasive and he will do the job for all the citizens of this great city.”
Jones scoffed at the Emanuel campaign’s attempts to portray Garcia as indecisive, inexperienced and incapable of leading a city on the financial brink.
“I recall when Harold Washington was mayor when Chuy was standing side-by-side with him. [People said,] `If you elect Harold Washington, First National Bank is going to leave.’ The very next day, the bank was still there,” Jones said.
Jones was asked how he planned to “sell” Garcia to African-American voters who will likely decide the April 7 runoff.
“It’s very easy. Chuy’s been there all along. He’s not new to the African-American community. I know it personally. He stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me when I was running for the leadership in the Illinois Senate. So, it’s easy for me to stand here and say, ‘I support this man,’” Jones said.
Garcia said he was “truly honored” to receive Jones’ endorsement and plans to call on the man he called a “foremost expert in the area of finance, pensions and insurance” in the months ahead after winning the runoff.
“I’m very, very happy to receive his support, demonstrating the type of diversity of communities in Chicago who are flocking to my campaign,” Garcia said.
“People who want to see change in Chicago. People who understand that, only by bringing people in a multi-racial, multi-ethic, across-geography coalition can Chicago become a city that is truly responsive to the needs of all of its residents.”