Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took a big lead in the latest poll on his race with Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
This new poll – already controversial – could not have come at a better time for the mayor, whose campaign this week appeared to be losing critical African-American support.
Emanuel was basking in more than sunlight Friday morning after the Tribune poll showed the mayor with a double-digit lead three and a half weeks before the April 7 runoff.
“It doesn’t change that you have to go out every day earning people’s support and telling them both that you have a plan, the perseverance and the strength to carry it through to help build the city,” Emanuel said.
In the survey of 712 “certain” city voters, 51 percent favored Emanuel, 37 percent Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia with 11 percent undecided.
The poll was taken March 6 through 11, before many respondents knew that Garcia would be endorsed by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Congressman Danny Davis, former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones and businessman Willie Wilson, who received more than 50,000 votes in the first election.
“I don’t see how a poll could capture the momentum we’ve seen taking place just since Sunday,” said Delmarie Cobb, a Garcia supporter.
“This is a dead heat. We continue to pick up tremendous momentum as we move forward and I have the greatest confidence that I will win on April 7th,” Garcia said.
GARCIA, EMANUEL PRESENT FISCAL PLANS
Garcia presented his fiscal plan Friday morning, claiming the city under his leadership could save hundreds of millions with efficiencies and refocusing TIF funds on blighted areas. He would not commit to a property tax increase to resolve ballooning pension debt.
“I cannot at this point look taxpayers in the eye and ask them to shoulder another burden before we have exhausted all other options,” Garcia said.
After releasing his plan, Garcia toured Englewood, a neighborhood he says was devastated by Emanuel administration policies.
“People don’t want to live on a block where there’s an abandoned house. People want to live in safe neighborhoods,” Garcia said.
The challenger says a Garcia administration would save millions with efficiencies, and millions more by collaborating with Cook County and other government agencies. He would audit every city department and reform the tax increment finance – or TIF system – to refund money to schools and blighted neighborhoods.
An Emanuel spokesman called Garcia’s lack of detail “stonewalling”, writing: “Chuy Garcia is telling Chicago voters he will hand in his homework after graduation.”
“While this election on one level is a choice between myself and Chuy Garcia, more importantly it’s about the future of the city of Chicago and that’s what’s on the ballot,” Emanuel said.
The mayor issued his own fiscal plan vowing to continue his current efforts to control city worker pensions by reducing cost of living increases and gradually increase employee contributions. Other savings include health care cost reductions, TIF reform and pressuring Springfield to close state tax loopholes.
Still, the mayor has not fully explained how he would meet the city’s looming $300 million dollar budget deficit and $550 million pension payment due this year. He wants taxpayers to trust him based on his record.
“Balancing four budgets without a property tax increase, without gimmicks. Investing in our children, our neighborhoods,” Emanuel said.
The two runoff candidates will engage in their first one-on-one debate next Monday night.