Emanuel, Garcia Face-Off In Chicago's First Mayoral Runoff

Apr 7, 2015
Originally published on April 7, 2015 7:16 pm
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We go next to Chicago where it is Election Day. Voters are deciding between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his challenger in a runoff. Jesus Chuy Garcia wants to become the city's first Latino mayor. NPR's David Schaper listened as both candidates appealed for support.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took a seat next to several volunteers at a North Side campaign office, picked up the phone and started dialing.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: Hey, Matt. It's Mayor Emanuel. How are you?

SCHAPER: And he detected a little shock on the other end of the line.

EMANUEL: It sounds like I caught you, huh? (Laughter).

SCHAPER: Emanuel's manner is upbeat as he banters and tries to woo voters, but his critics say it is Emanuel's often abrasive and in-your-face style that's put him into this unexpected runoff. The mayor even owned up to it in an ad. But he told reporters in the campaign office Chicago needs his tough-love approach to grapple with the massive looming pension deficit.

EMANUEL: This is a big election with clear choices and that there's a lot at stake for the city of Chicago.

SCHAPER: It was a much more raucous scene across town.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Chuy, Chuy, Chuy.

SCHAPER: As a strained and horse Chuy Garcia rallied his volunteers to get out the vote.

JESUS CHUY GARCIA: We weren't supposed to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Yeah.

GARCIA: And we were counted out by the pundits, by the polls.

SCHAPER: The polls show Garcia, a community organizer and a fixture in Latino politics, trailing Emanuel by double digits. But Garcia says pollsters are undercounting his support, just as they did in the first election six weeks ago. And Garcia says in his union-led get-out-the-vote effort with more than 5,000 volunteers knocking on doors will lead to a populist upset.

GARCIA: This is what the wave of democracy in Chicago looks like in 2015.

(APPLAUSE)

SCHAPER: Garcia's message seems to be resonating with many Chicago voters, including retired veteran Mike Connolly.

MIKE CONNOLLY: I just like the approach Chuy took. He's for the neighborhood. He's for the people.

SCHAPER: But...

CONNOLLY: The city's in a rut financially, and I just think that Rahm is better equipped to get us out of the rut.

SCHAPER: Connolly is quick to point out, though, that his vote for Rahm will be offset by his wife's support for Chuy. Turnout will be critical. Only 34 percent of Chicago voters cast ballots in February, but early and absentee voting is up significantly for this runoff. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.