Garcia punching back after weeks of getting pummeled by Lightfoot

A new 30-second spot TV spot, the congressman’s first of the mayoral campaign, focuses on crime.

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Flanked by supporters, U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Ill.) kicked off his campaign for mayor of Chicago at Navy Pier on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022.

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Ill.) kicked off his mayoral campaign at Navy Pier in November.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

After being pummeled by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is finally punching back with his first television commercial of the mayoral campaign, touting his plan to deliver Chicago from violent crime.

The 30-second spot — subject of a six-figure ad buy — is narrated by Garcia. It opens with an aerial view of Soldier Field and the downtown skyline, followed by a shot of a Chicago neighborhood.

But the scene quickly shifts to shooting scenes, playgrounds surrounded by yellow crime scene tape, police officers standing inside cordoned-off areas, victims being loaded into ambulances.

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“This has always been home. But like many Chicago neighborhoods, too many nights we hear gunshots and face the reality of rising crime. I’m Chuy Garcia and enough is enough,” Garcia says, at first looking straight into the camera, then being shown talking to police officers on the street, in animated conversation with Black, White and Hispanic voters at a restaurant table and greeting an elderly African American woman in front of a bungalow.

“It’s time to get back to a safer Chicago now by getting more cops on our streets and illegal guns off of them. Expanding community-based violence prevention programs and tackling the root causes of crime by investing in left-behind neighborhoods. Because getting back to a safer Chicago can’t wait.”

For three weeks, Lightfoot has blanketed the airwaves with a cartoonish but hard-hitting commercial tying Garcia to indicted former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and indicted cryptocurrency mogul Samuel Bankman-Fried.

Lightfoot’s efforts to drive up the negatives of the candidate she views as the biggest threat appears to be working — according to her pollster, at least.

Lightfoot’s new poll shows her leading with 25%, followed by a surging Paul Vallas at 22%. Once the frontrunner, Garcia is now third in Lightfoot’s poll, with 18%.

Veteran political operative Victor Reyes, a former Garcia adversary, is now supporting — but not advising — Garcia’s mayoral campaign.

Reyes said Garcia could not wait any longer to fight back. His campaign claims this buy is the first of several that will keep him on the air through the Feb. 28 election. Vallas, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson and millionaire businessman Willie Wilson have been airing TV commercials for weeks.

“It’s smart to lead with crime right up front and drive that all the way home until the very end,” Reyes said of Garcia, who got a $500,000 contribution this week from the “Fight Back Fund” run by former state Rep. Michael Boland.

“He’s getting pummeled, but he’s got to stay the course. He knew they were gonna attack him when he was the leader. And he knew they were gonna attack him on the Madigan issue.”

Reyes also criticized Lightfoot’s poll, a survey of 800 likely voters conducted Jan. 18-22 by the mayor’s pollster, Jason McGrath. It’s the “only poll I’ve seen in a year that shows her in the lead,” Reyes noted. “I don’t buy that poll at all.”

While Garcia tries to change the subject to crime, the mayor wants Garcia to “come clean” about his connections to Madigan and the Commonwealth Edison bribery scandal. Garcia is not accused of wrongdoing in that case, and his spokesperson told the Sun-Times on Friday that he “is not involved in any investigation in any manner.”

But Lightfoot alleged that after losing the 2015 mayoral election, “this congressman had clearly decided ... ‘If you can’t beat `em, join `em.’ And it’s not just about amassing power for people from his community. We understand that. It’s about what you did,” Lightfoot told reporters.

“The deals that you’ve cut. The way in which you’ve endorsed Mike Madigan over and over again. … And the way that you remained silent ... in the face of the storm clouds that were gathering around the former speaker.”

Lightfoot owes her 2019 election to the corruption scandal still swirling around indicted and now-retiring Ald. Edward Burke (14th).

“The voters of this city made a very clear message four years ago. They wanted a clean break from the past. A clean break from Machine-style politics,” she said.

Garcia dismissed the mayor’s latest broadside as yet another sign of “desperation” by a mayor headed for a forced retirement from Chicago politics.


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