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Congressman Jonathan Jackson endorses Chicago mayoral challenger Brandon Johnson

Newly elected US Rep. Jonathan Jackson, the son of civil rights icon Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., on Monday endorsed mayoral challenger Brandon Johnson, boosting Johnson’s efforts to unite a progressive political and labor movement that once was firmly in Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s corner.

The younger Jackson said he has “enormous respect” for Garcia. But Jackson said Garcia’s related entry into the race — after the Chicago Teachers Union had already endorsed one of its own in CTU organizer Johnson — forced him to make a choice that was not a difficult one.

“I’ve worked with Brandon as an activist in education. Education is something very close to my heart. I support the work of the Chicago Teachers Union. Those persons that are going in and out of these classrooms are the front-line workers. I think there’s a depth and breadth of scope [to Johnson]. We have a history of working together,” Jackson told the Sun-Times.

“Chuy Garcia is a close friend and ally. I really appreciate Chuy. It was just a matter of timing. He came in a little bit later. And Brandon was already in motion. I shared that with Chuy, as well. I’ve got a lot of people I respect and admire in the race. I’m making a personal choice as to what I think would be best for the city at this time.”

Jackson acknowledged that Garcia “stands for very much the same things that I stand for, as well.” But he and Johnson have more in common. They’re former teachers who forged a lifelong bond while opposing former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s controversial decision to close a record 50 Chicago public schools.

“We’ve both been educators, teachers. I’ve worked most closely with Brandon in these communities for a longer period of time. I know his pain,” Jackson said. “We’ve been activists together. I’ve seen his rise from activist to legislator. He’s had his eye on this for a long time. I share Brandon’s vision. I share his enthusiasm and commitment. We basically come out of the same tradition of being activists and now legislators. Brandon can take this ultimate leap over to being the executive of the city of Chicago.”

Garcia told the Sun-Times in November that he would love to unite the progressive movement he has championed for a lifetime — but is prepared to go it alone if it’s too late for that in the first round of balloting. He’s confident he can force Mayor Lori Lightfoot or someone else into a runoff and that the progressive family will reunite behind him then.

“Folks know me. … They know what I’ve done. I know we will eventually get their support. I’m the only guy left from the Harold Washington coalition. … No one in Chicago politics today has been involved in fighting the old corrupt and racist and sexist Chicago machine [longer] than myself,” the 66-year-old Garcia said.

“I’m certain our movement will come together. We have a shared set of values.”

On Monday, Jackson was asked whether he is prepared to pivot to Garcia if Garcia makes the runoff and the lesser-known Johnson is not among the top two finishers.

“Chuy’s a dear friend. We’ll cross that bridge once we get there,” Jackson said.

Johnson said he has known the younger Jackson for a more than a decade, admired Jackson Sr. for a lifetime and was truly “humbled” by Jonathan Jackson’s support.

“To have the support of … the son of a civil rights icon [who] ushered in the progressive movement before it was even called the progressive movement — that means there is a growing chorus of progressive leaders, civil rights leaders that recognize that my candidacy is not just strong. More and more people are convinced that Chicago is better off having someone who can build and bring a coalition together,” Johnson said.

Apparently referring to newly elected US Rep. Delia Ramirez, who has also endorsed Johnson, the candidate said, “When have you seen a public school teacher-turned-organizer, a Cook County commissioner get the type of support that has led to the election of two very dynamic Congresspersons from the state of Illinois?”

With support from progressives and labor — including the CTU, the American Federation of Teachers, SEIU Local 73 and SEIU Healthcare — Johnson said he is living out Dr. King’s dream of having the civil rights and labor rights movement “collide” into a powerful political force.

“It’s a very powerful statement for Chicago and, quite frankly, for the entire country that what our fathers and grandfathers and our grandmothers and mothers dreamed of and saw as potential, the children of that generation are living out that potential,” Johnson said.

Mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson, shown chatting with supporters in November, has received the endorsement of Rep. Jonathan Jackson.

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