Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia called Mayor Rahm Emanuel at about 8:15 p.m. Tuesday to concede the mayoral runoff while also offering his congratulations to the mayor and wishing his family well.
Garcia received 44 percent of the vote – not enough to unseat Emanuel, who garnered to 56 percent of the vote in Chicago’s first-ever runoff election.
The announcement of Emanuel’s victory drew shouts and tears from Garcia supporters, who gathered at the UIC Forum in hopes of celebrating a Garcia win.
When Garcia took the stage alongside his family and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, he was welcomed by his supporters.
“I have been loving Chicago for 50 years,” Garcia said. “It was a heartfelt race, but it’s over now.”
Garcia pointed to his success in forcing Emanuel into a runoff after the mayor failed to win 50 percent of the vote in the February general election.
“We didn’t lose today, we tried today,” Garcia said.
Touching on problems such as school closings and crime, Garcia said no matter who is mayor, everyone now has to fight together. He then called on the city government to focus on neighborhoods and help them grow.
Garcia also said the city needs to make the public schools models for the nation and said Chicago should work to keep residents from moving to the suburbs.
Some blamed low voter turnout for Garcia’s defeat.
“The people that didn’t vote would have made the election,” said Rosie Bello, a volunteer.
The Chicago Board of Elections reported nearly 39 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot on Tuesday. While election day turnout was low, officials reported a large number of early voters, with 142,000 voters casting ballots before Tuesday. Only 90,000 early ballots were cast during the general election.
Another Garcia supporter, Shirley Quinn, pointed to fundraising as the reason Emanuel was able to prevail.
Emanuel’s campaign and a political action committee raised more than $30 million combined; most of this money came from about 100 contributors.
“Chuy lost because Rahm has a lot of money. He is a rich person, he knows tons of rich people and he has more influence than Chuy,” Quinn said.
Quinn has concerns about how Emanuel will spend the city’s money.
“(Rahm) spends so much money making the Loop prettier, but won’t spend any money on the neighborhoods on the South Side. It’s just not fair,” she said.
With the city’s finances already on shaky ground and over $478 million in pension contributions due this year, the budget was a hot topic for both campaigns during the lead up to election day.
Garcia often criticized Emanuel’s vague plan for the city’s financial crisis and Emanuel accused Garcia of not having a definite plan to manage the city’s budget deficit. Despite the looming fiscal crisis, both candidates refused to say they would raise taxes.
In his TV commercials, Garcia said Emanuel has done a poor job with city finances and hasn’t done enough to address violent crime. He also blasted the city’s use of red-light cameras, which have raised millions of dollars for the city but are unpopular among Chicago drivers.
After the February election, Emanuel worked to reshape his abrasive image, and in one of his first TV ads of the runoff period, Emanuel admitted he “can rub people the wrong way.”
Each candidate also had backing from powerful places. Garcia received the backing of the Chicago Teachers Union, which criticized Emanuel for closing 50 public schools in 2013.
Emanuel, a former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, won the president’s endorsement in February. He was also endorsed by the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times.
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