A black-brown coalition, born under former Mayor Harold Washington and reborn in the candidacy of Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, is poised to elect the first Latino mayor in Chicago on April 7th. Big population shifts and the promise of progressive pushback to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's school privatization efforts and just plain mean-spirited governance style set the table for one of the most important races this year. With early voting double what it was for the initial mayoral election with 72,000 ballots already cast, according to the Chicago Board of Elections, this could be Chuy Garcia’s election win.
Building a Multiracial, Multicultural Coalition
Chicago is where racial coalition politics thrive and it usually spells out electoral victory given that the three major people of color groups each have roughly the same number of votes — making up 67.3% of the population, with 28.9% Latinos (with various countries of origin, particularly Mexico and Puerto Rico), 32.9% African Americans and 5.5% of Asian descent.
Garcia's black and brown support has not dissipated, even after Emanuel aired TV ads attacking Garcia's character, which saw Emanuel touting a sizable lead among white voters. Garcia can overcome Emanuel's old school attack tactics if he continues to utilize his grassroots, on-the-ground efforts to engage his newly formed coalition of African Americans, immigrant rights groups and working-class families.
Campaign Focused on Schools
With the backing of Chicago’s powerful teachers’ union and endorsements from key black leaders like Chicago Teachers’ Union President Karen Lewis, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Cornel West and Congressman Danny Davis, Garcia has staked out a progressive agenda, calling for an end to school closings and railing against big corporations and special interests.
After Emanuel closed 50 schools that served more than 396,000 students, the vast majority of whom were black or brown and poor, Chicago witnessed the first teacher strike in 25 years. Both candidates have wildly different approaches to school policy, but the truth is that Emanuel failed to manage the school system responsibly in terms of the school system’s debt and corruption among school board members who profited from business with the schools. Garcia is emphasizing, instead, the need to establish democratic accountability and an end to pay-to-play practices that have taken funds away from classroom needs.
Bridging the Gap
You can believe it when Chuy Garcia's finance chairman, longtime Chicago Democrat operative David Schaffer says that "Our polls show there's no way that Rahm can win; that Chuy will win pretty handily." By running on a strong, progressive agenda and building a new multiracial coalition in Chicago, Chuy Garcia is going to cause one of the biggest political upsets in recent years by defeating incumbent Rahm Emanuel. Garcia's key to victory is to keep effectively closing the racial gap with African-American voters and to continue positioning himself as the people-oriented and grassroots powered leader that he is.