CHICAGO (CBS) — After repeatedly meeting with both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia over the past few weeks, businessman Willie Wilson threw his support behind Garcia in the upcoming runoff election.

“This is history,” he said. “The city of Chicago will now receive its first Latino mayor.”

Wilson finished third in the February election, but with Garcia and Emanuel headed to a runoff, and polls showing a very tight race, both the mayor and his challenger courted Wilson for an endorsement.

After pressing both candidates to open some of the 50 schools Emanuel closed two years ago, and to eliminate the city’s red light cameras, Wilson said the mayor’s refusal to do either led him to endorse Garcia.

He made the official announcement Thursday morning at the Chicago Baptist Institute, which Wilson chairs.

Former state Sen. Rickey Hendon, a Wilson campaign backer, introduced Wilson as “the leader of the African-American community” and Garcia as “the next mayor of the city of Chicago.”

“I’ve always stated that I would vote for anyone, except for Mayor Emanuel,” Wilson said.

However, Wilson did earlier say he might endorse Emanuel, despite his personal choice of Garcia, depending on what his own supporters wanted him to do.
Wilson said he talked to his supporters after coming in third in the race for mayor last month, and they said Garcia should be the guy to win the runoff in April. He also said the endorsement is about more than forming a coalition of African Americans and Hispanics.

“This is not what you’d call a black and brown issue here. This is about black, brown, white, Asian, all citizens of Chicago,” he said.

Garcia echoed that sentiment.

“My administration, when I’m elected mayor, will be embracing of all Chicago,” he said.

He also said he was humbled by Wilson’s support.

“The people that have stood with Dr. Wilson, they’re playing a very important role in building the new coalition of the 21st century,” he said.

Wilson said red light cameras, school closings, and fairness in city contracts are what made him decide not to support Emanuel.

A self-made millionaire, Wilson was asked if he’d write Garcia a check for his campaign fund.

“I just said he needs to be writing me a check,” he said.