Jesse Jackson, Chicago Black Ministers Dump Rahm Emanuel, Support Chuy Garcia for Mayor

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Chicago, IL

Rahm Emanuel’s path to re-election as Chicago’s mayor just got a little murkier. On Monday a large group of African American ministers led by Operation Push activist Jesse Jackson endorsed Rahm’s opponent, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

Emanuel has been having a lot of trouble with three entrenched constituencies in the Windy City: The black community, the Hispanic community and the teachers union. Still, in the recent election he did better with black voters than he might have. But today, after losing Jesse Jackson and the city’s black ministers, Emanuel might have received a fatal blow to his shaky base of African American voters.

During a Monday press conference in support of Garcia, Rev. Jackson said, “Our agenda is a very positive one and a very focused one: we’re about neighborhood reconstruction,” and he cited Emanuel’s closing of 50 Chicago schools as one of the reasons they oppose him.

With his own comments, Garcia said, “we will stop giving taxpayer subsidies to the wealthiest in the city of Chicago. You don’t need tax increment financing to do development in the city center.”

The closeness of this race is a big surprise to many. Two years ago, when former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel won election as Chicago’s mayor, many expected he would have a long reign. It was even thought he’d use his powerful Chicago connection to eventually run for president. But after two years of butting heads with Chicago’s black population and its teachers union, Emanuel was forced into a run off–the first in the city’s history. This could all lead to the sudden end of his political career.

Emanuel’s opponent only got 26 percent in last month’s election, but Rahm didn’t reach the magic 50 percent to win outright. Yet, despite only getting 26 percent, Garcia has now surged to within single digits of the mayor.

The latest poll finds 43.5 percent supporting Emanuel and 38 percent in favor of Garcia. But a significant number, 18 percent, still say they are undecided. Everyone expects that black voters will tip the balance in the April 7 election.

Worse for Rahm, his opponent, Cook County Commissioner “Chuy” Garcia, is a man who was once thought of as so far to the left, even other Democrats called him “100% communist.”

Garcia is running a highly populist campaign, one that is long on promises but short on specifics. In fact, as of Monday, he still hadn’t even offered a plan of how he might pay for all his promises.

But what Garcia is saying he’ll do is less important to voters than what Emanuel has already done, and that is to upset the three aforementioned constituencies. The closing of schools, the continued neighborhood violence and crime, and the raising of fees, fines, and taxes have all riled the city’s entrenched interests. Add to that: Rahm’s constant globe hopping to raise money has made him seem distant and disinterested in those at home.

This election is also being called a bellwether, even for Hillary Clinton. James Warren wrote a piece for the New York Daily News warning Hillary that if Rahm loses his bid for re-election, it might easily be seen as a strike against insider Democrats and an avenue for a populist left-winger like Elizabeth Warren to undercut Clinton’s purported “inevitability.”

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