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Garcia, Emanuel cast early ballots; Garcia picks up Vermont senator’s support

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday cast an early vote for himself in Tuesday’s first-ever mayoral runoff, but that’s not the vote he’s most concerned about in his own family.

“I don’t know if I’m gonna get in trouble with [wife] Amy, but this is actually [son] Zach’s first election. He was not old enough on Feb. 24, so his first election is this,” the mayor said of his son, who recently celebrated his 18th birthday.

“We’re still working on it. He’s undecided. It’s a jump ball. . . . He can take out a lot on his dad right now. I’m in a very vulnerable position.”

His opponent, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, also voted on Thursday. Garcia and his wife, Evelyn, voted about 9 a.m. at Piotrowsi Park.

“It was quite exciting,” Garcia said. “There’s only two names on the ballot and I got the right one.”

Garcia also addressed the furor over a question posed to him earlier this week during at debate at WTTW. Moderator Phil Ponce asked about Garcia’s son’s past involvement with gangs — a question that sparked boos from the audience.

The question was “unfortunate,” Garcia said, “because the citizens are entitled to a robust conversation about the most important topics and I felt like we didn’t cover much ground.”

Through the close of business Wednesday, 100,976 Chicagoans had cast early ballots, nearly double the 51,245 early votes that had been cast at this point before the Feb. 24 election.

The Northwest Side’s 41st Ward leads the city with 5,094 early votes, apparently fueled by an aldermanic runoff and by noise-weary residents who have accused Emanuel of turning a deaf ear to their complaints about O’Hare Airport noise.

“I feel really positive about the early vote,” Garcia said. “I feel it favors my candidacy.”

Emanuel, whose campaign mailed out a ton of absentee ballots to his targeted voters, refused to speculate on how many of those early votes are his.

He would only say “numerous factors” drive up the early vote. They include the high stakes, the convergence of spring break, Passover and Easter, and the fact that people are “much more comfortable” voting early.

“There’s a paradigm shift. Every day is election day for two weeks. But, more importantly, every day for four years after that are the consequences,” the mayor said.

“My name may be on the ballot. But the future of the city of Chicago is what’s at stake here.”

On Thursday night, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders appeared on the Southeast Side to throw his weight behind Garcia and Susan Sadlowski Garza, who is running for alderman in the 10th Ward.

“I want Chuy to be the next mayor of this great city,” Sanders said. ”And I want Susan on the City Council.”

Speaking at the former headquarters of United Steelworkers Local 1033, the independent senator from Vermont advocated for the rebuilding of the nation’s infrastructure, a $15 hourly wage for McDonald’s workers and public funding for elections.

“Let’s elect Chuy,” Sanders said. “Let’s elect Susan, and let’s make the city of Chicago one of the great progressive cities in the United States of America.”

A spokesman for Ald. John Pope, Garza’s opponent, said Pope is proud to have the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis also participated in Thursday night’s event, offering praise for Garza.