Friday, October 31, 2014

Will Chuy be the new Karen Lewis?

It will be interesting to see if Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Chicago, can capture the imagination of the electorate – or at least those people who are determined to show up at the polling places come February to vote for Anybody But Rahm.

Garcia is the long-time politico at the city, state and county levels who now wants to try to become mayor come the 2015 municipal elections.

THAT WAS THE campaign that many had hoped would be between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis – who has made her own detestation for Hizzoner publicly known on many an occasion.

But Lewis was hospitalized earlier this month, and it turns out had to undergo serious surgery. She has health issues that make the idea of running a political campaign incredibly unrealistic.

So that leaves the Emanuel detesters in desperate need of somebody, anybody, else they can vote for on Feb. 24 – and again on April 7 if a run-off in the nonpartisan election becomes a necessity.

That is where Garcia – a long-time critic of the Chicago political establishment – comes in. If the Mexican-born politico can rise above the image of being somebody that people from the Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods vote for, he could be a credible opponent.

WHICH IS WHY I find it interesting to see where Garcia plans to be on Friday – he will be the keynote speaker for the Chicago Teachers Union legislators and educators appreciation dinner to be held at Plummer’s Hall; a particularly popular Near West Side location for just about any kind of organized labor gathering.

Gov. Pat Quinn also is to be there, along with Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill. – both of whom have their own election desires up for grabs come Tuesday.

Yet I’d bet that politically-minded people will be paying more attention to Chuy (for those who are clueless, it’s a common Spanish nickname for people who were named after the Son of God) and anything he says more than anything that comes from the mouth of the “Mighty” Quinn.

For Lewis was planning to use her organization with the teachers union as the base of any campaign she could have run against Emanuel. There also are several other people in the union who are planning to run for aldermanic seats.

IT COULD HAVE become sort of like a political slate that could have created a “Mayor Lewis” some allies in the City Council.

Is Garcia capable of stepping into the vacuum created by Lewis’ departure from the upcoming election cycle to create a campaign momentum for himself? We could get our first clues Friday night!

Now whether it will happen is something we’ll have to see.

I noticed the Capitol Fax newsletter out of Springfield pointed out that Garcia isn’t exactly the most stellar of fundraisers for his political efforts. Lewis herself likely would have been vastly outspent by any Emanuel campaign.

THE SAME IS definitely bound to happen for any political bid that Garcia puts up. He won’t have enough money to be competitive, and could easily get defined by Emanuel as someone not up to the job. Because there are those who will want to believe that no Latino politico truly has the kind of experience to challenge for leadership of the city of Chicago.

I noticed that the Chicago Tribune, in reporting earlier this week on Garcia’s entry into the mayoral campaign, made a point of referring to him in the lede of their story as a “little known” politician.

Despite his political experience dating back to the days of Harold Washington as mayor and his experience in being dumped from the Illinois Senate because then-Mayor Richard M. Daley preferred the idea of a more subservient Latino in a Chicago-based legislative seat.

In the county board, he has been a constant supporter of board President Toni Preckwinkle – who is the person that some people would like to see replace Lewis as a mayoral challenger.

WHAT IF PRECKWINKLE were to wind up giving her backing (even in some discrete form, such as refusing to do anything positive for Emanuel) to a Garcia bid.

Between that and the teachers union backing, it could turn him into a credible challenger. Without it, he could be the guy who gets his butt whomped by 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti!

We’ll see soon enough which scenario is more likely to happen.


EDITOR'S NOTE: I couldn't help but add the notice issued by the teachers union Friday afternoon that Karen Lewis herself will be present at the event. How nice for Garcia if he can get a campaign photograph of himself arm-in-arm with Lewis. It would be worth more than any financial contribution.

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