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U.S. Rep. "Chuy" Garcia faces challenge from Ald. Raymond Lopez in Democratic primary

Race for Congress: Chuy Garcia vs Raymond Lopez in Illinois 4th District
Race for Congress: Chuy Garcia vs Raymond Lopez in Illinois 4th District 04:35

CHICAGO (CBS) -- With just two weeks to go before the Illinois primary elections, one of the most closely watched contests is the Democratic race in the state's 4th congressional district.

U.S. Rep. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia is the incumbent and is running for a fourth term. Chicago Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) is Garcia's only challenger.

Americans' approval ratings for the job being done by Congress is terrible. On that, Garcia and Lopez agree.

"This is a do-nothing Congress," Garcia said.

"I think you have to be willing to advocate for what matters most," Lopez said.

What matters to residents inside the 4th District will determine the winner. The district covers parts of the city's West Side and Southwest Side and west and southwest suburbs – spanning from suburban Burbank and Midway International Airport to the south, Halsted Street to the east, west suburban Oakbrook to the west, and just shy of O'Hare International Airport into Franklin Park to the north.

Garcia forced Mayor Rahm Emanuel into the city's first runoff election for mayor in 2015, but lost; and then came in fourth place in the first round of last year's mayoral race. Lopez launched a campaign for mayor in the 2023 race, but dropped out just before candidates began filing their nominating petitions.  He also ran for Congress against Garcia in 2018, but dropped out of the race.

The race pits Garcia, one of the most progressive members of Congress, against Lopez, one of the most moderate members of the Chicago City Council.

"I think the primary difference between Chuy Garcia and myself is that Chuy is an open-border Democrat who has forgotten about everyone here that's been waiting for help," Lopez said.

Garcia accused his challenger of using scare tactics when it comes to the city's migrant crisis.

"This is an extension of Republican talking points and messaging that seek to vilify immigrants; that want to create fear," Garcia. "They prefer to have the types of talking points that my opponent has; simply to scare, to create fear, to distort, and to talk about Congress's inability to pass immigration reform, but not recognizing who has hindered and been the obstacle to Congress."

Lopez, considered a more moderate Democrat, helped lead the failed effort to end Chicago's sanctuary city status.

CHRIS TYE: "You are doing things that are maybe antithetical to what you might expect someone running for a Democratic congressional seat to do. You appear on Fox News … and you are critical of the president. You are notoriously critical of Chicago's mayor.  How are you playing this? Are you trying to pull over some Republican voters who might have otherwise never been a Democratic customer?"

LOPEZ: "I am a Democrat, born and raised on the Southwest Side."

"I'm not trying to play to the extreme. I'm not trying to out-crazy the crazy and out-left the left. I'm focusing dead in the middle, because that's how I was raised."

Garcia doesn't buy it.

"Alderman Lopez is a confused Democrat who seeks to get as much publicity as possible. Wherever there's a camera, he'll be there. My question is, 'What have you delivered?' My record is consistent, it's long, and it's principled," he said.

Their stances vary on everything from how to handle the city's migrant crisis to how to respond to the Israel-Hamas war.

Garcia has called for a ceasefire in Gaza, while Lopez has called for full support of Israel.

"I think we're showing who we are, and I believe that we must stand and confront terrorism in all its forms, whether it's on the world stage or even in our own neighborhoods. That's why I've become such a vocal advocate for standing up for victims against gang violence, fighting against those domestic terrorists in our neighborhoods, while Chuy has remained silent," Lopez said.

"The violence has to stop, and we need to get on track toward a fair settlement of this lingering conflict in the Middle East, which is bad for Israelis, for Palestinians, but also for the entire region and it destabilizes economies," Garcia said.

The two agree that the biggest threat to democracy comes from inside our borders, but while Lopez said both parties' extremism and misinformation are at fault, Garcia pointed the blame squarely at Republicans.

"We're different. I believe that most of the threats to democracy have come from right-wing extremists in the country; are fueled by the rhetoric of Donald Trump and other enablers in Congress," he said.

"I'm happy to criticize from the middle, because both parties are in fact culpable, and when you have individuals who always only see the problems in those that they are confronted with, and not the problems in their own eye, you know, we have a problem," Lopez said.

They largely agree on supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia's invasion, and chipping away at the $1.7 trillion federal deficit, though have different approaches on how to do it.

Their final pitch here in the home stretch?

"I'm a practical Democrat. I have run in this district. This will be my [fourth] race. I have been elected by Democrats in both the city and the suburbs, including independents as well. I am a coalition builder. I have fought the Chicago machine, helped dismantle the machine," Garcia said.

"I think when it comes to policy, when it comes to politics, we are wildly different individuals. But at the end of the day, voters have to choose whether or not they want someone who just speaks of what they're going to do, or who actually delivers on what they say," Lopez said.

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