Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia called Mayor Rahm Emanuel to concede the mayoral race Tuesday around 8:15 p.m., just over an hour after the last polls closed.
Emanuel received 56 percent of the vote, more than enough to beat Garcia’s 44 percent, in the city’s first-ever mayoral runoff election.
The Chicago Board of Elections reported a voter turnout of just over 38 percent, about four percent higher than the turnout for February’s general election.
After conceding, Garcia addressed his assembled supporters at the UIC Forum.
“This was a hard-fought race, but it’s over now,” Garcia said.
Despite the loss, Garcia said he still has high hopes for Chicago.
“We didn’t lose today, we tried today,” Garcia said. “We have big problems in Chicago, but no matter who is mayor, we have to work together to solve them.”
Garcia pointed to problems like gun violence, school closings and the development of downtown instead of the neighborhoods as issues that need the mayor’s attention.
“You want a city that works for everyone, not just for downtown or for the neighborhoods, but for both,” Garcia said.
Garcia pointed to a population exodus as exacerbating the city’s issues.
“In the last 15 years, Chicago has lost more than 200,000 people,” Garcia said. “Yes we have a debt crisis, and a pension crisis, but that’s because of the one thing: we have a growth crisis in Chicago. We can’t solve our problems unless it grows. That means a growing middle class, not a shrinking one.”
Throughout the campaign against Emanuel, Garcia criticized the mayor for closing 50 public schools in 2013 and also for raising millions of dollars through the use of unpopular red-light cameras.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was on hand for the event, said Emanuel’s victory was not good for Chicago.
“There is only downtown,” Jackson said. “That’s not enough.”
Jackson added Emanuel “has a monopoly on the money,” but said that much of the city doesn’t feel Emanuel is using that money to protect them.
Despite the wide margin of Emanuel’s victory, several Garcia supporters said they were surprised by his loss.
“I had hoped that his message would have resonated with the entire city, but unfortunately we have those that have fears,” said Norma Ramirez, a Garcia campaign volunteer.
Ramirez said she is not optimistic Emanuel will better serve the city during his second term.
“I am not hopeful,” Ramirez said. “I expect more of the same and even worse. We in this city have lost in [Emanuel’s] mayoral win.”
Another Garcia supporter, Tyrone McGowan, said he is staying positive.
“I think Garcia ignited a fire in Chicago,” McGowan said. “Runoff has never happened before in the city, so I think a lot of the issues that he spoke for are at the forefront now. We just have to keep that movement going.”
McGowan said Chicagoans are curious to see if Emanuel goes back to putting his main focus on downtown instead of on the city’s neighborhoods.
“It was interesting how this election he had to go back to the same communities to get votes where he closed 50 schools, he closed mental health centers and where he created food deserts,” McGowan said.
“I hope that he can unite all of the city, North, South and West Sides.”