U.S. watches Chuy-Rahm contest with keen interest
By Mariano “Anong” Santos
ABOVE PIC: CHICAGO Mayor Rahm Emanuel (4th fr. L) takes time to pose with some of his Filipino American supporters March 13 at the Furama Restaurant at N. Broadway including Billy Dec (L), member of Obama's Asian American Advisory Council (L), FACC president, Dr. Rufino Crisostomo (5th fr. L), and Dennis Mondero (6th fr. L), A Fil-Am lawyer who moderated the greet-and-meet event and other members of the Fil-Am community. Also pictured are the owners of the Furama (2nd & 3rd fr. L) who hosted the event with samples of their cuisine. (PINOY Photo by Anong Santos)
ABOVE PIC: COOK County Commissioner Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia (center) poses with PINOY publisher/editor Mariano "Anong" Santos (L) and Asian American leader Theresa Mah at his campaign HQ at 615 W. Washington Blvd. in Downtown Chicago prior to the exclusive interview March 18. (PINOY Photo by H. De Guia, Jr.)
CHICAGO--"The whole country is watching on April 7 the result of this election for it will affect the presidential and congressional campaign next year," declared Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia, the survivor of the four candidates who challenged Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the February 24th Democratic Party primary in Chicago.
Garcia who garnered 33.5 per cent of the votes against Emanuel's 45.4, had forced the incumbent in a run-off election because of the failure of a contender to muster the needed 50 per cent plus one to be declared a clear winner of the primary. The three other contenders received a combined total of 21 per cent.
The Republicans did not field any mayoral candidate in the heavily Democratic city.
Political analysts see a Garcia victory that will shake up the national political dynamics because Emanuel is considered a principal Democratic figure who delivers huge campaign funds for the party. Emanuel is also known as a major Clinton backer and his defeat will have a negative impact on Hillary's support from the country's heartland where Chicago is considered its capital.
Another reason why the nation is focused on this election is that the influence of the Hispanic voters will be tested in a city where they only come as third next to White and Black voters.
As the first Latino American to seriously aspire for Chicago's highest elective position, Garcia, 58, makes extra effort to bring his message to the city's various ethnic communities, granting PINOY an exclusive interview on March 18. The Chicago Tribune reported that Garcia's campaign chest is only one tenth of the $18 million that Mayor Emanuel has raised from his mostly corporate donors to win on April 7.
"I will be the first immigrant mayor of this city in a long time," said Garcia while he extrapolated the coalition of Hispanic, Afro American, Asian American and other minorities to deliver a victory for him as when Harold Washington, successfully formulated the strategy to be the first Afro American to head Chicago which has the distinction as the most segregated major city in the U.S.
Garcia's big African-American endorsements since the first vote, include Jesse Jackson, former Illinois Senate leader Emil Jones, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, and a group of influential black ministers. The grassroots energy and the GOTV operations of most of the Democratic base organizations (like Move-On) are on the side of Garcia.
On March 23, The Latino Victory Fund announced its support for Garcia—a major coup in terms of major funding for his campaign. With these support, Garcia's ads finally made the network TV where, until recently, Emanuel had a monopoly.
For Immigration Reform
"I support a comprehensive immigration reform…I sponsored laws when I served as a state representative in Springfield and now as a Cook County Commissioner…introduced measures that are tailored to help immigrants to be integrated into the American mainstream," said the Durango, Mexico-born candidate--when queried about the 70 per cent who stayed away from the last election, with the Latino and other immigrant communities leading the list of those who are lagging in their civic duties like voting.
A holder of a master's degree in urban planning and policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Garcia, who is known for a quality of education advocacy, offered to reactivate the election of school councils that successfully elicited wide participation from members of various communities who democratically voted in citizens into the boards in their respective areas.
"Citizens, whether documented or not, who have a stake in the affairs of their neighborhood participated in these elections. They declared they wanted not only safe schools but also clean and friendly neighborhoods by planting gardens in vacant lots and painting over graffiti," he recalled.
Then Garcia added, "As Mayor of this city, I will be in a good position to engage the members of chambers of commerce, faith communities and little league ball clubs to be stakeholders and cheerleaders. I will motive them to participate in community policing to assist the 1000 policemen that I will hire. These citizen initiatives do not necessitate budgets that cripple the city coffers…they need only leaders who truly care for the interests of citizens in the neighborhoods…and I will be that leader."
When asked what role awaits the Asian Americans in his administration, Garcia promised to involve them in all levels of the city government. "I recognize the talents and skills that Asians provides in the economic and social vitality of this city. They will be in my cabinet, in park districts, city colleges and other agencies. Fairness and equity will guide me.
Asian Enterprising Spirit
"Asian Americans like the Chinese, Filipinos and Indians come from various countries. Their enterprising spirit in business and trade will be helped by making the city customer-friendly—that is-- licensing, zoning, punitive regulations will be facilitated and issuing of unreasonable tickets will reevaluated to help businesses thrive. They will be partners in making Chicago a world-class city for trade and commerce—we have O'Hare and Midway, ports of the Great Lakes, the railroads…in addition to human resources. Chicago will flourish once again!," he enthused.
From his big vision, he was asked about what he will do about the dreaded gang activities in neighborhoods. Garcia was quick to enumerate things he would do. "In addition to what I mentioned about involving members of the community in the affairs of their neighborhood like policing, I will help build mutual trust and respect between the citizens and the authorities.
" Justice in conflict resolution should be observed in juvenile courts—even involving a jury of their own peers and aggressive creation of job opportunities for parents as well as for the youth…harnessing the energy of students who are off from schools by employing them in summer jobs," he emphasized.
A frantic signal from an appointment secretary put a brake in what is turning to be an engaging inquiry into the mind of a candidate who made history. A challenger with a shoe-string campaign budget caught the enthusiasm of citizens who would like to be led by one of their own.
Rahm and his dim sum
Garcia is undaunted facing a formidable political veteran who used to be the chief of staff of President Obama and who used to be the whip that created a Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives later in the Clinton administration. "I have the support of the grassroots," said the Cook County Commissioner from the Pilsen area with confidence.
A week before, PINOY was invited by Emanuel-supporter, Dennis Mondero, in a gathering of Asian Americans for Mayor Rahm Emanuel at Furama Restaurant at N. Broadway. After his brief remarks, Emanuel took questions that can only be taken from "safe" supporters who recited praises for Emanuel. Businessmen expressed their gratitude to Emanuel whom they rarely saw in places like their Chinatown along Argyle Street.
In his effort to identify himself with the various ethnic groups, Emanuel mentioned that he is a grandson of a Jewish immigrant and then took time for photo opportunities with his supporters. One of them is restauranteur Billy Dec who sits on the White House Asian American Advisory Council. Dec promised to ask Emanuel to be more accessible to Filipino American events like the Independence Day celebration.
Just as the poll numbers before the Feb. 24 elections, Emanuel is ahead of his challenger. Main stream media notes that the mayor learned to be humble as a consequence of this run-off election on April 7. It was even noticed that Mayor Emanuel was served at the Furama his dim-sum and that he actually ate it.
But Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and his supporters know that the stake is far much greater. No wonder, they go out of their way to solicit the questions about the state of the city that needed to be answered thoroughly.
But whatever is the outcome on April 7, this Mexican immigrant truly caught the attention of the country about the state of affairs in Chicago. Undoubtedly, "Chuy" has already made history. •