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Endorsements from Rep. García, Rev. Jackson could be big help for Brandon Johnson, experts say

García, Jackson announcements could be big help for Brandon Johnson, experts say
García, Jackson announcements could be big help for Brandon Johnson, experts say 03:01

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Three weeks from Election Day, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and U.S. Rep. and two-time mayoral candidate Jesús 'Chuy' García both endorsed Brandon Johnson for mayor of Chicago.

Jackson announced his endorsement of Johnson on Friday afternoon.

"For more than a decade, I have watched Brandon grow as a father, an organizer, an elected official and a leader in communities across our city," Rev. Jackson said in a news release. "And I have proudly watched him embrace and embody the fight for justice, and show courage in the face of injustice against the people of Chicago."

"I am deeply, deeply honored to receive this endorsement from Rev. Jackson, a mentor and a friend," Johnson said in the release. "He is an icon of our movement, a champion for impoverished and disenfranchised people across the globe, and I am humbled to have his support of my candidacy for mayor of the city we both love and call home." 

Meanwhile, García and Johnson, both prominent progressives, are now uniting in hopes of beating Paul Vallas, who finished first on Feb. 28.

"Despite being opponents during February's election, Commissioner Johnson and I have shared priorities for our city, including public safety, quality education, affordable housing, community development, and ensuring Chicago remains a safe and welcoming city to immigrant communities. This moment symbolizes the strength our movements have together and our shared commitment to creating a better, safer, stronger Chicago," García said in a statement.

The García endorsement is another sign of progressive support for Johnson - and the biggest endorsement yet, according to the experts with whom we checked in Friday.

"Chuy's endorsement of Brandon Johnson is the most important endorsement that has been made so far," said University of Illinois Chicago political science professor emeritus and former alderman Dick Simpson. "To win, Brandon Johnson has to get a very solid African American vote and a Latino vote."

The García endorsement could mean a boost from García's supporters and the Latinx community.

"This endorsement indicates that he has faith, or at least more faith, in Brandon Johnson than Paul Vallas to represent that community well," said North Central College professor Stephen Caliendo. "So that could be a really, really big help for Brandon Johnson."

But the experts emphasized that an endorsement from García does not mean all García voters are likely to vote for Johnson.

Thus, this is not a nail in the coffin for Paul Vallas, according to them.

"I think it's probably Paul Vallas who's still ahead, but there's a large undecided vote," Simpson said.

Vallas on Friday saw a key endorsement with Chicago Laborers District Council - representing construction and industrial workers.

Meanwhile, many of the mayoral runners-up have made endorsements, though not all. García and Kam Buckner have endorsed Johnson, while Willie Wilson, Ja'Mal Green, and Roderick Sawyer have endorsed Vallas.

Sophia King has not endorsed either candidate, and didn't respond to our questions about an endorsement Friday.

The big lingering question is about the sitting mayor.

"The elephant in the room is Lori Lightfoot, of course," Caliendo said.

Who will Mayor Lori Lightfoot back in the election? Will she back anyone?

"I wouldn't be totally surprised if she stayed silent the next couple of weeks," Caliendo said.

We checked in with Mayor Lightfoot's campaign. There was nothing to report.

As for how much these endorsements really matter and the weight they carry, both experts tell us they're meaningful.

"They may not be wild about Brandon Johnson or Paul Vallas, so having cues from people they do respect and do believe represent this is important," said Simpson.

"Endorsements are about helping people who aren't paying close attention to the race have a signal about who would be the best person to support if they were paying close attention," added Caliendo. 

Also this week, Alds. Michelle Harris (8th), Anthony Beale (9th), David Moore (17th), Derrick Curtis (18th), and Emma Mitts (37th) endorsed Vallas – along with former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones. They join several other aldermen in endorsing Vallas.

Former Secretary of State Jesse White endorsed Vallas earlier this month and has been appearing in campaign commercials for him.

U.S. Reps. Danny Davis, Jonathan Jackson, and Delia Ramirez (D-Illinois), Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul have all announced their support of Johnson – along with several aldermen. A few national figures – including U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), and Rep. James Clyburn (D-South Carolina) have also endorsed Johnson.

Early voting for the mayoral runoff election begins on Monday. Election Day is April 4.  

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