Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Preckwinkle to put Garcia’s political influence to the test on Election Day

Rep. Jesus Garcia, D-Ill., would like to think he’s the predominant Latino politico in Chicago, and the upcoming run-off election for mayor will be a significant test.
GARCIA: Cook County grudges come to life

For Garcia, formerly a member of the Cook County Board before being elected to Congress, has come out publicly in favor of the mayoral campaign of Lori Lightfoot.

OR ACTUALLY, IT’S more like he’s come out as being opposed to the mayoral aspirations of Toni Preckwinkle – who was his county board colleague as county board president.

Meaning this is about political payback. He doesn’t want Preckwinkle to prevail. He’d like for her to go down to a shameful defeat come April 2.

Part of it is because back in 2015 when Garcia wound up running against Rahm Emanuel for mayor, Preckwinkle managed to fail to support Chuy’s mayoral aspirations back then. So he doesn’t feel compelled to offer her any support.

There’s also the fact that when the county assessor’s post was most recently open in the 2018 election cycle, the two were split – with Preckwinkle backing Joe Berrios’ bid for re-election while Garcia came out in favor of Fritz Kaegi.

ALSO PLAYING INTO this is the fact that when Garcia gave up his county board post to run for the seat in Congress, he wanted to hand-pick his replacement – Alma Anaya. But Preckwinkle offered only the most tepid of support for her.

All in all, it means Garcia has his reasons to not be inclined to want to see Preckwinkle succeed. And if, by chance, there turns out to be evidence that the Latino vote in Chicago this coming election swings heavily in favor of Lightfoot for mayor, I have no doubt that Garcia will be more than eager to take credit for it.

He’ll gladly take it as a feather in his cap that he personally deprived Preckwinkle of a significant (and growing) share of the electorate, and it will further bolster his desire to see himself as Chicago’s most politically powerful elected official of Latino ethnic origins.
Will Toni defeat redeem for Garcia … 

Similar to how in last year’s elections, he was more than eager to take credit for the fact that Dan Burke lost his seat in the Illinois House of Representatives – saying he turned out the significant Latino vote in that Southwest Side legislative district in order to bolster the Latino caucus within the General Assembly.

BUT FOR ALL that accomplishment might mean, there’s also evidence that there are limits to Garcia’s political influence. Such as the Feb. 26 election when Garcia made it known he was targeting the aldermanic re-election bid of Burke’s brother, Ed – as in the long-time Finance chairman who liked to think he was the almighty powerbroker of City Hall.

Despite the growing Latino population of that ward (about 80 percent), Burke solidly won re-election. He got the remaining white voters to turn out in force to generate some 53 percent of the vote – meaning he didn’t even have to endure a run-off election.

And he overcame all the hostile rhetoric that has been spewed about Burke on account of the fact that federal prosecutors were slinging toward Ed. As in if there ever was a time when Ed Burke should have been politically vulnerable, this was it.

If anything, Ed Burke’s victory showed the limits of Garcia’s influence over Latino Chicago. It puts thoughts into peoples’ minds that maybe Chuy isn’t as almighty as he’d like us to think he is.

BY THAT STANDARD, being able to claim he “took down” Preckwinkle’s mayoral aspirations would be face-saving, to a degree.
… his failure to beat Burke?

Of course, there was the fact that in the Feb. 26 election, the Latino segments of Chicago were the ones where the mayoral race was seen as a political battle between Susana Mendoza and William Daley, with some extra votes for Gery Chico.

Preckwinkle and Lightfoot really didn’t factor into the equation. Making some wonder if come the run-off, the Latino voter turnout will be tepid, at best. Will Garcia be able to get the Spanish-speaking enclaves of Chicago to care at all about who the next mayor will be?

That will be the real test – as we will learn whether anybody ought to be paying any significant attention to Garcia and his thoughts in future elections.


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