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Latino challenger Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia's Chicago Mayoral Race Victory Hinges on Black Vote

First Posted: Mar 02, 2015 01:33 PM EST
For Latino challenger, Chicago mayoral race hinges on black vote

Photo : Scott Olson/Getty Images

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may face a formidable runoff challenger in Jesús "Chuy" García if the Cook County commissioner can win support from the Windy City's black community, Reuters reported.

García, who is hoping to become Chicago's first Latino mayor, needs to overcome tensions between the black and Hispanic communities that date back to the 22-year reign of Richard Daley, whose administration was frequently accused of favoring Latinos for city jobs. But the county commissioner is benefiting from African-American disillusionment with Emanuel.

The current mayor is blamed for a persistently high crime rate and the shutdown of 49 schools in mostly poor areas. Voters apparently feel President Barack Obama's former chief of staff is out of touch, and black Chicagoans who overwhelming backed him in 2011 may not be inclined to do so in the April 7 runoff.

In the mayoral election's first round, held on Feb. 24, Emanuel received 45 percent of the vote; García took 34 percent. But there is "a path to victory" for the challenger, the Chicago Sun-Times said.

"Emanuel may have worked for a black man, but he doesn't know much about black folks," Chicago Sun-Times editorialized.

The African-American community makes up about one-third of the city's electorate, and Emanuel's backing in predominantly black wards slipped to 42 percent in the first round. In 2011, he had carried 59 percent in those areas. Emanuel's strong support in white wards, meanwhile, is effectively canceled out by García's lead in majority-Hispanic neighborhoods. That dynamic is what makes the black vote so critical in the run-off between the two Democrats.

Valerie Johnson, the chair of the political-science department at DePaul University, said García already has "support among a portion of the old guard in the black community." Now, he has to persuade voters he has "built concrete and lasting alliances with African-American activists" and worked on their concerns -- education, crime and jobs.

Nevertheless, Emanuel has powerful friends in African-American and Hispanic leaders. They include Obama and Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who claimed the mayor was "well-positioned" to win the runoff.

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