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CHICAGO–The Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates (HOD) voted overwhelmingly to endorse Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in his bid to unseat Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the upcoming municipal election. The endorsement came Wednesday, Nov. 5 during the evening HOD monthly session where nearly 600 delegates met to discuss union business, analyze the mid-term election and strategize on the upcoming mayor’s race. It also came just days after CTU President Karen GJ Lewis offered her personal endorsement of Garcia after deciding not to mount a campaign due to sudden illness.

The HOD also voted overwhelmingly to endorse three rank-and-file leaders and activists for aldermen. Sue Sadlowski Garza will run for Alderman in the 10th Ward, Tim Meegan will run for Alderman in the 33rd Ward and Tara Stamps will run for Alderman in the 37th Ward.

Educators, parents, and African-American and Latino voters are even more motivated to defeat Emanuel now that his best friend, the anti-labor venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, will soon be sworn in as Illinois’ next governor. Many educators believe the new governor-elect will strengthen the mayor’s local crusade to undermine public schools, reduce retiree’ pensions and cut vital city services in poor neighborhoods in order to expand downtown.

ILLUSTRATION: Jesus "Chuy" GarciaThe CTU’s formal endorsement followed a recommendation from the labor group’s Political Action/Legislative Committee which met with both Garcia and 2nd Ward Alderman Robert “Bob” Fioretti, the only other progressive candidate seeking to get on the February ballot. Through an internal, democratic vetting process, the committee comprised of rank-and-file teachers, paraprofessionals and school clinicians agreed that because of Chuy’s three decades of consistent leadership and because he has a significant grassroots base and can mount a viable campaign against Emanuel, he should receive full union support.

“Our union’s delegates have spoken, and our rank-and-file teachers, paraprofessionals and school clinicians agreed that because of Chuy’s three decades of consistent leadership and because he has a significant grassroots base, that he is best candidate to mount a successful campaign against the mayor,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey.

“Working families are tired of being ignored by politicians in Chicago who only care about downtown,” Sharkey said. “As mayor, we expect him to put the focus back on neighborhoods and the diverse people who live within them.”

Thousands of Chicagoans remain turned off by Emanuel’s top-down, racially insensitive policies that led to largest school closures in U.S. history, reductions in library services, smaller school budgets and the strategic closures of mental health clinics in black and brown communities. Noting the mayor’s 70 percent disapproval rating, many Chicagoans agree with Lewis that the “city is moving in the wrong direction” and are focused on changing the leadership in City Hall.

“If (Garcia) is elected as our mayor, I know he will work for all of our citizens, not just the corporate elites and special interests who seek to privatize our public assets,” President Lewis said last week. “Chuy is the right leader for the right time to move our city forward. South Side, West Side, North Side, everybody, let’s support the bigger man.”

The first Mexican-American in the Illinois State Senate and a key City Council ally to Harold Washington, the city’s first African-American mayor, Chuy has been a strong supporter of organized labor, working families and the voiceless. Married to a newly retired Chicago Public School educator, the long-time legislator is a unifying force and has a proven track record on fighting for safe and affordable housing; small businesses; job creation; immigrant rights; and social justice.

Mayor Garcia will invite more civic participation in his policy decisions and offer a more democratic, inclusive and transparent leadership style in contrast to Mayor Emanuel’s panache of closed-door, aggressive governance.

“It’s time for a mayor who will crack down on the poverty, the foreclosures and the disinvestment that are causing so much violence for our children,” Sharkey said. “Chicago’s government must invest in essential services like schools.

“Moreover, Garcia has strongly endorsed an elected school board—a measure which the current mayor has sabotaged at every turn—and electing him will help restore our voice in our children’s schools.”