U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia speaks during a news conference at City Hall earlier this month.

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia speaks during a news conference at City Hall earlier this month.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Rep. Garcia in strong starting position if he runs for Chicago mayor, poll shows

The poll was commissioned by the Nuestro PAC, a national committee urging U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia to run against Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

SHARE Rep. Garcia in strong starting position if he runs for Chicago mayor, poll shows

WASHINGTON –Nuestro PAC — a national political action committee focusing on Latino voters — is urging Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill., to jump into the Chicago mayoral race, commissioning a poll showing Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Garcia tied as the standouts in a big field and Lightfoot saddled with a high disapproval rating.

I talked to Garcia Sunday and asked him about the risk-free position he holds. Garcia, on the November ballot seeking a third term, faces weak GOP opposition in a safe Democratic district. He can run for mayor in 2023 without giving up his seat in Congress.

“I am very much aware of that,” Garcia said.

Garcia will also know before deciding whether Democrats lose the House in the midterms.

Earlier this month, Garcia, calling Lightfoot vulnerable, told reporters the odds of his running in the 2023 City Hall contest were 50-50. On Sunday he said he is aiming to decide by mid-October, with his odds changing day by day.

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The petition filing deadline is Nov. 28. Chicago’s nonpartisan mayoral election is Feb. 28, with a runoff between the top two on April 4 if no one wins a majority plus one vote. Garcia lost to Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the 2015 mayoral runoff.

The poll

The polling firm Bendixen & Amandi talked to 400 likely voters on cell or land telephones between Sept. 1 and Sept. 5. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9%. I’m writing about this poll because I was given the entire survey, not just a summary or a press release.

Chuck Rocha, the Nuestro PAC senior adviser encouraging a Garcia mayoral bid, said “running one of the nation’s largest cities would be a great indicator of the power of the Latino vote.”

Top issue: At 44%, crime — that is, gun violence and the murder rate — is the top concern. Every other issue was under 7%.

On track? 55% said the city is headed in the wrong direction; 33% right track; 12% don’t know or were undecided.

Lightfoot approval: 17% strongly approved of Lightfoot’s handling of her job as mayor; 27% somewhat approve; 26% somewhat disapprove; 28% strongly disapprove.

The Feb. 28 horse race: Counting respondents who lean toward a contender, here are the results to the question: “If the election were today, whom would you vote for?”

Please note this is a fluid barometer, a snapshot of people who are in or seriously mulling a mayoral bid. Most, not all, names being mentioned were polled.

Still, it shows the steep uphill battle ahead for many contemplating the race. Keep in mind 67% of those surveyed said they could “still potentially change” their choice.

Lightfoot: 25%

Garcia: 24%

Businessman Willie Wilson: 13%

Former Chicago Public Schools chief Paul Vallas: 9%

Former Gov. Pat Quinn: 6%

Hovering between 0% and 4% - State Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago; marketing executive and community activist Ja’Mal Green; Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson; Ald. Sophia King (4th); Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th); Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th).

Favorability: Garcia scores 56% as very or somewhat favorable; Wilson scores 49 %; 47% for Lightfoot; 46% for Quinn; 38% for Vallas. Everyone else is under 26%.

Unfavorability: Looking at the somewhat to very unfavorable front, where a smaller number is better — Lightfoot, 47%; Wilson, 29%; Quinn, 28%; Garcia, 20%; Vallas, 17%.

Name ID: In this one, a high number shows a lack of name recognition. Adding to the challenge of not being known: Only Lightfoot, Garcia and Wilson — as of Sunday — have demonstrated an ability to fund citywide campaigns. Vallas has hired nationally known campaign consultants, suggesting he has lined up some money.

Only 6% did not recognize Lightfoot’s name or know enough to have an opinion; in contrast to 22% for Wilson; 24% for Garcia; 26% for Quinn; 45% for Vallas; 59% for Green; 60% for Lopez; 64% for Sawyer and King; 77%, for Buckner; and 78% for Johnson.

By race: Top three candidates by respondents who identified as white: Garcia, 23%; Lightfoot, 22%; Vallas, 16%.

Top three, by respondents who said they were Black: Lightfoot, 33%; Wilson, 19%; Garcia, 14%.

Top two, by respondents who said they were Hispanic: Garcia, 48%; Lightfoot 23%. All others below 5%.

Top three, by respondents who said they identify as Asian: Lightfoot, 33%; Quinn and Wilson, 17%. Everyone else at 0%.

More poll demographics: Respondents were 52% female; 48% male. They self-identified as 48% white; 30% Black; 19% Hispanic/Latino; 2% Asian. Some 37% had, before taxes, annual household incomes of less than $50,000; 31% between $50,000 and $100,000; and 25% more than $100,000. Some 88% of the respondents said they are “very likely” to vote Feb. 28.

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