THE LOOP — Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) and Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (D-Chicago) formally filed petitions Monday to take on Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the February municipal election in what starts out as a 10-person race before challenges narrow the field.
Fioretti claimed to have filed 55,000 signatures to withstand any challenges, and later in the day Garcia submitted more than 63,000. Some 12,500 valid signatures were required to get on the ballot.
"We believe that will make our nomination challenge-proof," Garcia said.
They filed on the last day, joined by former alderman Robert Shaw, as well as Amara Enyia, Gerald Sconyers and William "Dock" Walls III.
A collection of grassroots groups filed 50,000 signatures to place an advisory referendum on the ballot for an elected school board in 38 of the city's 50 wards. The Chicago Teachers Union joined in the effort.
"The status quo is not working for our children," said Amisha Patel, executive director of Grassroots Illinois Action, which was spearheading the drive. "Instead of constantly trying to shut down democracy, it is time for the mayor and Chicago Public Schools to listen to the people. We will not be silenced any longer."
"We don't want to play the game anymore," said Jitu Brown, an education activist with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance. "We're here to change the game." He said they'd also be pushing for action on an elected Chicago Board of Education in the General Assembly.
The Logan Square Neighborhood Association was among those collecting signatures to get the referendum on the ballot in the 26th Ward, citing Ald. Roberto Maldonado's support for shifting Ames Middle School to Marine Leadership Academy, a move approved by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's hand-picked Board of Education almost a year ago.
Supporters of the referendum said they were prepared for their petitions to be challenged.
"I would be surprised if they weren't," Brown said. "They will challenge anything that says you have to be accountable to the public."
Monday was the final day for candidates to file for municipal races with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, located at 69 W. Washington Blvd.
Board spokesman James Allen said that, four years ago, 20 candidates filed for the mayor's race, and 351 for aldermanic races, before they were winnowed down in the brutal pre-election politics of having their petitions challenged.
"I don't think we're gonna have anywhere near that this time," Allen added.
Emanuel filed his petitions a week ago on the first day of registration. His campaign said it filed 43,000 signatures, after posting 90,000 in his first mayoral campaign four years ago, but on Monday he said the number of signatures was not a sign of strength.
Garcia, however, countered that. "The fact that we submitted the highest number of nominating petitions underscores the change that people in the city's neighborhoods would like to see Chicago take — a new set of priorities," he said. "The city is not headed in the right direction."
"We need a mayor that is tough and fair, one that looks out for every part of this city," Fioretti said. "I will be that mayor with your help."
The sitting mayor said he was not intimidated by the number of challengers to his re-election.
"I look at it as running for the city's future, not whether they're running against me," Emanuel said Monday at a news conference along the Elston Avenue industrial corridor. "The real point is to make sure you have an agenda, very specific, on the future of the City of Chicago."
Emanuel emphasized a campaign theme of having made "the tough decisions."
He added, "I'm gonna be running for the future and building a future for the City of Chicago for every resident, not against anybody."
Emanuel committed to debates, but skirted a question on whether he would actively challenge the petitions of his opponents, saying only, "You have to have legitimacy."
Garcia filed in the race later in the day, just before 4 p.m. Only perennial candidate "Dock" Walls filed after 4, giving him the last spot on the ballot.
The board posted a list of candidates in all citywide and aldermanic races.
Chicago Police officer Frederick Collins also filed at the opening with Emanuel a week ago, and would be in a lottery with Emanuel for the top spot on the ballot if he survives any challenges. Fenton Patterson, who also filed four years ago only to have his petitions ruled invalid, was also in the race, along with Willie Wilson.
The election is set for Feb. 24. In races where no candidate earns 50 percent of the votes cast, a runoff between the top two candidates will take place April 7.
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