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In Washington, it’s ‘Viva Chicago’ for Garcia

WASHINGTON — “So there is a real choice here,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is saying at a Tuesday fundraiser for mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia at a townhouse a few blocks from the Capitol.

“Of somebody, you know, who bullies his way through life” — that’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel she is talking about, with this crowd everyone knows that, she doesn’t even have to say — “versus somebody who puts coalitions together, block by block, working folk, Latino, African-American, white, the colors of the rainbow to actually make a city work.”

Garcia on Tuesday wound up a swing through New York and Washington, hunting for campaign money for the April 7 election. He raised about $100,000 in each city. Weingarten’s union has been one of Garcia’s biggest contributors — more than $1 million all told, including $227,003 reported to the Illinois State Board of Elections on Monday.

Meanwhile, Emanuel’s nonstop cash geyser pushed out more than $500,000 just on Tuesday, according to state campaign disclosure reports.

Emanuel’s lopsided cash advantage was all old news to Garcia when I interviewed him on Tuesday morning. Garcia figures he will top out — at best — at $5 million and he will make do with what he has. He has been conserving cash for an end push.

“I mean, that’s what we need. We just need to get our message out and we just bought another week of TV yesterday, so we’ll be on television through Election Day.”

The Emanuel cash is buying a bunch of time for spots hitting Garcia. “I think the fact that people know that he’s all about money inoculates them not to believe what they’re seeing,” Garcia told me. He knows he will never match Emanuel in money, but expects to have between 5,000 and 6,000 volunteers in play on Election Day.

A poor field operation was a reason Emanuel was forced into the runoff.

The Chicago mayoral race strikes me as more anti-Emanuel than anything else. When I was back home in February, most folks I talked to — even those who liked Emanuel — thought he needed a big wake-up call, a reminder that good politics and smart policy require that you stop rubbing people the wrong way.

I asked Garcia to come up with words to describe Emanuel.

“Out of touch, arrogant, in a hurry, and Chicago’s problems can’t be dealt with in a hurry,” Garcia replied.

In Washington, Garcia, a Cook County Board commissioner, huddled with Hispanic and progressive House members and other activists; met with union honchos; headlined his fundraiser; and was scheduled to end the day here attending a big meeting of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Much of the financial backing for Garcia’s campaign comes from unions. His $500-a-person fundraiser included folks from the Transportation Union, Amalgamated Transit Union, the Communication Workers of America, the National Education Association and the SEIU. There were also folks from the Latino Victory Fund, Moveon.org and Democracy for America.

“The mayor, we call him Mayor 1 Percent,” Keith Kelleher, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana, is telling the group of about 50 or so at the fundraiser. Upon reflection, Kelleher amended that. “He’s actually mayor 0.1 percent.”

Garcia seemed to revel in the storyline of his David to Emanuel’s Goliath campaign combat. “Everyone’s eyes are on Chicago,” Garcia told his supporters.

“Viva Chicago,” came the call from someone in the room.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., was there, wearing a Chuy button. He is a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He told me besides raising some money from his House colleagues on Tuesday for Garcia — he will be heading to Chicago to help turn out the vote in the coming days.

On April 2, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., an icon to progressives — and mulling a presidential run — hits Chicago to headline a rally for Garcia and 10th Ward aldermanic candidate Susan Sadlowski Garza.

Who plays Rahm at debate prep?

Garcia told me for his debate prep, three people played Emanuel: lawyers Marty Castro and David Schaeffer and political consultant Don Rose.