Cook County Commissioner Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia to join race for Chicago mayor

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia plans to run against Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the February election. He has four weeks to gather 12,500 signatures required to enter the race.

But the 58-year-old democrat said he is up for the challenge. The former alderman and state senator from the Southwest Side was elected to his current position four years ago.

"Chicago wants change. That's why I'm circulating my nominating petition and advance an alternative agenda," Garcia said.

He criticized Emanuel on Monday for being more focused on wealthy donors than Chicago's less privileged neighborhoods. As a Little Village resident, Garcia said he has watched the inequity in the city grow under Emanuel's term.

"That somehow if the well-to-do in the city and the city center, the downtown area, are doing well and thriving that somehow that prosperity will come to the neighborhoods. That hasn't been the case," Garcia said.

The married father of three is a big supporter of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. His political ties and popularity in Chicago's Latino community could potentially cut into Emanuel's support.

Mayor Emanuel downplayed the news of a new challenger.

"People will make their own cases if they decide to run or not. I think the most important thing is to have a city that's on the move, facing its challenges head on," Emanuel said.

Meanwhile, Alderman Bob Fioretti said the more candidates in the race, the better.

"The more people that enter the race, the better the dialogue is. I'm looking forward to the debates with the mayor. I want the mayor there," Fioretti said.

Garcia's announcement came two weeks after health issues forced Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis to officially end her bid for mayor. The commissioner said her exit influenced his decision.

"I will probably seek her endorsement, but I also have the support of organized labor in many quarters," he said.

Emanuel took more than 50 percent of the votes to avoid a run-off in 2011. That could change this time around, as more formidable challengers enter the race.

The deadline to file the nominating paperwork is Nov. 24.

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