Nov 14, 2022 - Politics

Possible racial acrimony ahead of 2023 mayoral race

Jesus "Chuy" García poses next to a newspaper box displayed with cartoon drawings of him before greeting commuters in 2015. Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Rep. Jesús "Chuy" García announced his candidacy for mayor Thursday on a platform of unity, choosing Nov. 10 because it marked exactly 40 years since Harold Washington announced his campaign.

What they're saying: "I'm the only guy left from the Harold Washington coalition," García told the Sun-Times.

Yes, but: The reference seemed to irk leaders of the Harold Washington Legacy Committee, who issued a statement the morning of García's announcement saying, "we have noted one candidate who never knew Mayor Washington attempting to distort his legacy for their own benefit."

  • "That is an insult to those of us who knew him, worked with him, and fought with him. We fear more candidates will lay unfounded claims to his legacy, which would be especially insensitive for any candidates who are not African American."

Why it matters: The statement portends possible racial acrimony in the 2023 mayoral race.

Zoom in: Committee leader Josie Childs insists the statement was not specifically about García.

  • "This is about all the candidates who would use Harold's name," Childs tells Axios. "I want to know what they're going to do now, not what they did 40 years ago."

The intrigue: Mayoral hopeful Ald. Roderick Sawyer, son of former mayor Eugene Sawyer, aimed directly at García last Friday.

  • "I don't think the best way to announce a so-called 'unity' campaign that claims to build consensus is to appropriate the legacy of one of the most beloved African American leaders in Chicago history," Sawyer said in a statement.

The other side: Author and former Washington media strategist Achy Obejas tells Axios that García helped organize for Washington in Pilsen and Little Village during the 1983 campaign.

  • Plus, "Harold and Chuy spent hours together during the 1987 campaign, and when Harold died, Chuy spoke at his funeral," Obejas says. "They were political allies but also personally close."
  • "Questioning his Harold bona fides is absurd."

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