Progress Illinois: Catching Up With Chuy Garcia, Progressive Illinois Electeds On Election Day Morning

By Ellyn Fortino

April 7, 2015

Chicago mayoral challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia made an Election Day push for votes early Tuesday morning at the Jefferson Park blue line station.

Garcia, a Cook County commissioner, greeted transit riders with State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) and Alds. Scott Waguespack (32nd) and John Arena (45th), the latter of whom is locked in one of 18 Chicago aldermanic runoff contests to be determined Tuesday.

"We're feeling good," Garica told reporters. "Our troops are out everywhere in Chicago. They fanned out at 5 o'clock this morning, so we expect to have a full compliment of volunteers to get every single vote out that we can."

"We're going to be out there knocking on every door. Ringing every phone and sending every social media message that we can to come out and vote," Garcia added. "We think this is a tight race. We think the field will decide it, and that's why we're confident that tonight we're going to have a great victory party."

Waguespack said there are "high vibes for Chuy Garcia" across the city. 

"I've been on the South Side, West Side, up here on the North Side now, and just a positive vibe everywhere," the alderman told Progress Illinois. "What is at stake is the future of our city ... Are we going to be a city of neighborhoods under Chuy Garcia, or are we going to be a city of corporate interests under Mayor Emanuel?"

Recent polls show Mayor Rahm Emanuel with a comfortable lead over Garcia. Asked about the latest surveys, Waguespack said he "always take polls with a grain of salt."

"Mayor Emanuel was pumping out polls for a couple years there, and spending a ton of money on them and was always making sure that the word and the message got out about how well he was doing. We haven't seen that at all lately," he said. "And I think that says a lot about his style of politics going from pushing it out there for many, many months, and then all of a sudden going into total silence says a lot, to me, about his polling. We just got to wait and see at the end of the day who gets more people out and who wants to see change."

Waguespack and Arena, outspoken critics of Emanuel on the council, are members of the Progressive Reform Caucus. Tuesday's aldermanic runoff races feature two Progressive Reform Caucus members, Arena in the 45th Ward and Ald. Toni Foulkes in the 16th Ward. 

Arena said he's feeling "great" about his chances of winning a second city council term. The runoff in Chicago's 45th Ward, covering the Jefferson Park, Gladstone Park, Old Irving Park, Portage Park and Forest Glen neighborhoods, is a re-match between Arena and Chicago Police Lt. John Garrido, who lost to Arena in the 2011 election by 30 votes.

"We've been working really hard the last two weeks on get out the vote," the alderman told Progress Illinois. "The response has been fantastic. Lot of positive energy with this campaign. I'm very excited about it." 

Asked what issues are of top concern to voters in the 45th Ward, Arena said: "There are some local issues that have played out here, but leadership matters, and all of those things kind of add up towards what's the leadership been like the last four years? What's the progress that we've made? Those are the things that people are talking about. And obviously, they talk about going forward. How do we deal with our financial situation? And they want us to tackle these things head on. That's what I've heard more than anything else -- Let's be honest. Let's talk about what we need to do to make sure the city's on firm financial footing -- And I'm excited about being part of that for the next four years."

Guzzardi helped get out the vote for both Garcia and Arena at the transit station. The state representative said he'll also be knocking on doors throughout the day on behalf of Garcia and Arena.

"I think this election is a real turning point for the city of Chicago," Guzzardi told reporters. "I think that we have seen our neighborhoods really suffering in the last four years. That working families are struggling to make ends meet, and our communities need investment. We need resources, and we need a mayor who's going to care about working people, and Chuy Garcia is going to be that mayor. Alderman Arena is going to be that alderman. We are going to see real progressive leadership in the city."

Guzzardi said he expects there to be a "real surge in turnout" today.

"This is an unprecedented kind of election," he noted. "We haven't seen a mayoral runoff like this before. I think it's impossible for anyone to know what to predict today, but one thing I know from first-hand experience is that the field wins elections. And this campaign has armies of dedicated, passionate volunteers out knocking doors and getting voters out to the polls. That's going to make a difference today."

Here's more from Guzzardi, Garcia and Arena:

Also at the Jefferson Park blue line station this morning was State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, who was there to support Arena.

"John is a friend of mine. We've worked together on a few different issues, and he's been very supportive of me. And I'm not up for election this cycle, so I'm here to help out a friend," Frerichs told Progress Illinois. He declined to say who he's supporting in the Chicago mayoral race.

Asked about the 18 aldermanic runoffs across the city, Waguespack, who won re-election outright in February's round of balloting, said most of the incumbent aldermen forced into runoffs are "Mayor Emanuel's 100-percent voters."

"I think that says a lot about what people expect from aldermen now," he said. "They don't want to see these guys just going with the mayor all the way. They want some change there. And there were a lot of aldermen that squeaked by as well with 50 [percent] plus one. I think what we want to see is change across the city, and people are really getting out there and voting for it."

Waguespack said he's feeling "pretty good" about his fellow Progressive Caucus members, Arena and Foulkes, being re-elected to the council. 

"John's been doing a great job. I've been knocking on doors for him, We're getting a good response there. We just got to wait and see," the alderman said. "Toni Foulkes, it's a strange race down there. It's harder on the doors there. I think people are more wary."

"But I think overall we're going to see some pretty good change" on the council, Waguespack said.

The Progressive Reform Caucus picked up two new members in last month's election, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who unseated Ald. Rey Colon (35th), and David Moore, who won outright in the three-way race for the open 17th Ward seat being vacated by Ald. Latasha Thomas. 

Waguespack said the Progressive Reform Caucus has the potential to pick up five to six new members in the aldermanic runoffs.

"We can see a seat change here, and that's really what our city needs," he said.

UPDATE 1 (10:17 a.m.): Frerich's press secretary, Greg Rivara, contacted Progress Illinois to clarify that the state treasurer supports incumbent Rahm Emanuel in the mayoral runoff election.