Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Wednesday February 25th, 2015, 12:09am

Garcia Gears Up For Battle Against Emanuel, 'Special Interests' In April Runoff (VIDEO)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and top challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia are set to go head-to-head in an April runoff contest.

Emanuel, who had a massive fundraising edge over his four challengers, fell short of the 50 percent plus one he needed to win Tuesday's mayoral election outright.

"No one thought we'd be here tonight," Garcia, a Cook County commissioner, told a packed room of supporters at the West Loop's Alhambra Palace Restaurant at about 9:45 p.m. "They wrote us off. They said we didn't have a chance. They said we didn't have any money, while they spent millions attacking us. Well, we're still standing. We're still running. We're going to win."

With about 98 percent of precincts reporting as of 10:45 p.m., unofficial election returns showed Emanuel with 45.3 percent of the vote compared to Garcia's 33.9 percent. Also running in the race was businessman Willie Wilson, who earned 10.5 percent of the vote and Ald. Bob Fioretti at 7.3 percent. Community activist William 'Dock' Walls came in last, receiving 2.7 percent of the vote.

The upbeat crowd at Garcia's election night headquarters erupted in chants of, "Chuy, Chuy, Chuy," throughout the evening.

During his speech, Garcia accused Emanuel of catering to big corporations and special interests.

"The city deserves a mayor who will put people first, not big money special interests," Garcial said. "This city needs a Mayor who will listen to people. The people who get up every day, work hard, pay their bills, and want nothing more than a good job, a safe neighborhood for their family and a good school for their kids. You are the people who really make this city work. Each and every one of you. I will not forget you. And I will listen to you."

Garcial also took Emanuel to task over his handling of public safety issues.

"It's just wrong for our kids to have to dodge bullets on their way to school," Garcia said. "That's going to change, and we're going to change it together."

Garcia entered the mayoral contest with support from Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis after she opted against running due to health issues. Lewis was not at Garcia's event, but CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey was, along with many teachers, activists, labor leaders and Cook County Clerk David Orr, among others.

During his speech, Garcia said Lewis asked him to tell the crowd, "This is about the new democracy that's been ushered into the city of Chicago." 

Here's more from Garcia:

William McNary of Citizen Action Illinois was thrilled to learn the news of an Emanuel-Garcia matchup on April 7. 

"As you can see by this crowd, Chuy's base of support is very enthusiastic," McNary said. "I would much rather be in this room right now for the second place runoff finish than to be in the room with the mayor right now. He's got to be shocked that he spent (millions of dollars), and he could not knock off Chuy Garcia, but Chuy Garcia is a man that's going to work for all of Chicago."

McNary called the outcome of Tuesday's election a "referendum" on Emanuel's agenda for the city.

"You cannot close 50 schools in predominately African-American and low-income communities," McNary said. "You can't brag about not raising the property, (sales and gas) tax" while pushing regressive forms of taxation like speed cameras, McNary said.  

"This is a new direction for the city of Chicago. This is about two competing visions: Are we going to have a city that works for the wealthy few, or are we going to have a Chicago that's going to work for all of us," he added.

After Garcia's speech, Jose Lozano, a Garcia campaign volunteer, celebrated the grassroots organizing that was done leading up to Tuesday's election. But, "we've got a long way to go," he stressed. 

"We can soak in the energy and the enthusiasm and the ecstasy of tonight, but we've got a fight on our hands," Lozano said. "As Chuy laid out in his speech tonight, we're dealing with a lot of money. I wouldn't necessarily say it's power. I think the power is here. I think the power is with the voters who we need to come out and vote.

"I will hope that we can extend our invitation to Mr. Fioretti and Mr. Wilson as well as Mr. Walls and encourage them (to) rally their troops and their supporters to look at this from a bigger perspective and see how we win this city and put it back in the hands of working families," he added.

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