Mayoral election takes center stage at St. Patrick's Day Parade

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Sunday, March 15, 2015
New KeywordMayoral election takes center stage at St. Patrick's Day Parade
Tens of thousands are seeing green in downtown Chicago as the annual dyeing of the Chicago River went without a hitch to kick off the St. Patrick's Day festivities.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- This year, politics mixed with the St. Patrick's Day Parade more than ever with the upcoming mayoral election taking center stage.

Mayoral challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia enjoyed the luck of the Irish Saturday after the Service Employees International Union of Illinois (SEIU) endorsed him over Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the April 7 runoff election.

While marching in this year's St Patrick's Day Parade, Garcia welcomed the support.

"I'm delighted to have it," the Cook County Commissioner said. "It means a lot of people and hopefully additional resources. Very enthusiastic, additional momentum."

Union leaders say the vote to back Garcia over Emanuel was not unanimous. While some members of SEIU Local 73, which represents some city workers, backed the mayor and his plan to overhaul city worker and laborer pensions plans, the labor leaders of at least one other local changed their minds after Garcia won the right to face Emanuel in a runoff.

In a written statement SEIU Illinois State Council President Tom Balanoff said: "This election presents a clear choice between Rahm Emanuel and Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia. SEIU is going to make sure that Chicago's working families have a say in this election."

When asked about the SEIU endorsement, Emanuel campaign spokesman Steve Mayberry responded: "Mayor Emanuel is very proud to have the support of dozens of labor organizations... Now that SEIU is involved, perhaps they can share with Chicagoans the details of Garcia's secret plan to tackle Chicago's budget problem."

Mayberry alleges that Garcia has not yet revealed specific proposals to deal with the city's deep financial problems.

Before helping to kick off Saturday's parade up Columbus Drive, Emanuel reaffirmed his position.

"As was true of the last four years, leadership counts because what you need to do," he said. "What I've always said if we put our financial house in order we'll create an environment for job growth and for companies and families to come to the City of Chicago."

Garcia's endorsement comes the same week a newspaper poll showed Emanuel with a double-digit lead over Garcia with less than four weeks to go before the election.