Garcia punching back after weeks of getting pummeled by Lightfoot – Chicago Sun-Times

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After being pummeled by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is finally punching back with his first television commercial of the mayoral campaign, touting his plan to deliver Chicago from violent crime.

The 30-second spot — subject of a six-figure ad buy — is narrated by Garcia. It opens with an aerial view of Soldier Field and the downtown skyline, followed bya shot of a Chicago neighborhood.

But the scene quickly shifts to the shooting scenes, playgrounds surrounded by yellow crime scene tape, police officers standing inside cordoned-off areas, victims being loaded into ambulances.

“This has always been home. But like many Chicago neighborhoods, too many nights we hear gunshots and face the reality of rising crime. I’m Chuy Garcia and enough is enough,” Garcia says, at first looking straight into the camera, then being shown talking to police officers on the street, in animated conversation with Black, White and Hispanic voters at a restaurant table and greeting an elderly African American woman in front of a bungalow.

“It’s time to get back to a safer Chicago now by getting more cops on our streets and illegal guns off of them. Expanding community-based violence prevention programs and tackling the root causes of crime by investing in left-behind neighborhoods. Because getting back to a safer Chicago can’t wait.”

For three weeks, Lightfoot has blanketed the airwaves with a cartoonish but hard-hitting commercial tying Garcia to indicted former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and indicted cryptocurrency mogul Samuel Bankman-Fried.

Lightfoot’s efforts to drive up the negatives of the candidate she views as the biggest threat appears to be working — according to her pollster, at least.

Lightfoot’s new poll shows her leading with 25%, followed by a surging Paul Vallas at 22%. Once the frontrunner, Garcia is now third in Lightfoot’s poll, with 18%.

Veteran political operative Victor Reyes, a former Garcia adversary, is now supporting — but not advising — Garcia’s mayoral campaign.

Reyes said Garcia could not wait any longer to fight back; his campaign claims this latest buy keeps him on the air through the Feb. 28 election. Vallas, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson and millionaire businessman Willie Wilson have been airing TV commercials for weeks.

“It’s smart to lead with crime right up front and drive that all the way home until the very end,” Reyes said of Garcia, who got a $500,000 contribution this week from the “Fight Back Fund” run by former state Rep. Michael Boland.

“He’s getting pummeled, but he’s got to stay the course. He knew they were gonna attack him when he was the leader. And he knew they were gonna attack him on the Madigan issue. … Whoever they think is the leader, they’re all gonna jump on.”

Reyes also criticized Lightfoot’s poll, a survey of 800 likely voters conducted Jan. 18-22 by the mayor’s pollster, Jason McGrath. It’s the “only poll I’ve seen in a year that shows her in the lead,” Reyes noted. “I don’t buy that poll at all.”

While Garcia tries to change the subject to crime, the mayor wants Garcia “come clean” about his connections to Madigan and the Commonwealth Edison bribery scandal.

She alleged that after losing the 2015 mayoral election, “this congressman had clearly decided … ‘If you can’t beat `em, join `em.’ And it’s not just about amassing power for people from his community. We understand that. It’s about what you did,” Lightfoot told reporters.

“The deals that you’ve cut. The way in which you’ve endorsed Mike Madigan over and over again. … And the way that you remained silent … in the face of the storm clouds that were gathering around the former speaker, particularly in light of the ‘Me, too’ allegations that were swarming.”

Lightfoot owes her 2019 election to the corruption scandal still swirling around indicted and now-retiring Ald. Edward Burke (14th).

“The voters of this city made a very clear message four years ago. They wanted a clean break from the past. A clean break from Machine-style politics. … And what we’ve seen with Congressman Garcia is an effort to drag all of that stench of corruption to the fifth floor” of City Hall, she said.

“The voters of this city are smarter than that. They’re seeing through it. And they’re gonna say when this Trojan horse of public corruption walks in the door, ‘No, thank you.’ We’re not turning back.’”

Garcia dismissed the mayor’s latest broadside as yet another sign of “desperation” by a mayor headed for a forced retirement from Chicago politics.

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January 24, 2023 at 05:36PM

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