U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García endorsed Mayor Lori Lightfoot four years ago when he decided not to run for mayor.
But now, he’s the latest to join a long and wide-ranging list of mayoral candidates vying to deny Lightfoot a second term.
“I believe that Chicago needs new leadership that can bring people together, someone that is rooted in the Chicago experience, knows the neighborhoods, understands people’s realities and someone who can unite the people of Chicago,” García said in an interview on “Chicago Tonight.”
García is a lifelong resident of Little Village. He believes Lightfoot’s recent “combative” way of handling conflict in City Council is the opposite of what Chicago needs.
“People feel unsafe … in order to make that reality change, you need someone who’s going to be collaborative and not exhibit that type of conflict unnecessarily … There are few results to show for a significant increase in the city budget. Chicago is known for the combativeness that’s been on full exhibit, now because of the transmission of the council meetings, petty fights, the texting on-and-on … she has not been a unifier and the type of leader we need to come out of the pandemic to make Chicago a thriving city, with thriving neighborhoods,” García said.
García is a familiar face to many as the only candidate to have served in government at nearly every level during his nearly half-century career in Illinois politics.
“I learned that taking care of business and the U.S. Congress is good for the city of Chicago,” García said. “I’m very proud to be a part of this Congress which delivered pandemic relief, assistance to the state of Illinois … I think we kept the country from dipping into a recession or worse. Without the support we’ve sent Chicago and Illinois, the economy would be in a much dire situation.”
Four years ago, García surprised the political world by endorsing former House Speaker Mike Madigan for Democratic party chair. Madigan is now facing more than 20 federal bribery and corruption charges.
García said he doesn’t regret making that endorsement — though the charges and alleged bribery scheme did surprise him.
“In 2016, Bruce Rauner was governor of the state of Illinois trying to make the state a right-to-work state, opposing an increase in the minimum wage, taking anti-worker positions,” he said. “I was asked by worker leaders in Illinois to support a challenger from the right. I did so. I don’t have any regrets about that. It was important for organized labor to protect workers in Illinois. That was the motivation.”
As a congressman, García received donations from disgraced former CEO Sam Bankman Fried who created cryptocurrency company FTX, which has gone belly up. García said he’s since given the donations to charity.
“One of the things that I read that he [Sam Bankman] favored was COVID pandemic preparedness,” García said in reference to the donations he received. “That may have been a way for him to woo several members of Congress. The support that was provided was in the form of an independent expenditure. We had no control, no coordination, no knowledge of it until we saw that it was taking place in the district. The money was returned … I have a long history of being skeptical about cryptocurrencies. I think they ought to be regulated very closely. I've been a fierce advocate of that. I have suggested that to the regulatory agencies that come before us periodically to report. I care about the financial system, protecting it.”
Other major candidates who have announced a run for mayor include Lightfoot, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, Willie Wilson, state Rep. Kam Buckner (D-Chicago), Paul Vallas, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward), Ja’mal Green and Ald. Sophia King (4th Ward).
The election is Feb. 28. If no candidate wins a majority of the vote, the top two finishers will head to a runoff on April 4.