CHICAGO — In the race for mayor, two well-financed candidates who came up in politics as grassroots organizers are going at it.

“As we take steps forward it’s clear that Congressman Garcia has taken a step back, right? Because he didn’t stand up for the people of the Southeast of Chicago when General Iron was trying to force its way and bring toxic waste to the Southeast Side of Chicago,” said Brandon Johnson of his opponent, Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia. “His voice was absent in the dynamic around Hilco. In fact, he’s been a collaborator with this current administration.”

“No one in elected office today has been fighting the machine and what used to be the core elements of the Chicago machine — corruption, racism and sexism — longer than I have,” Garcia said.

In the crowded nine-person field, Congressman Garcia and Cook County Commissioner Johnson have both set their sights on courting progressive voters.

Johnson is backed by the Chicago Teachers Union, which previously backed Garcia during his 2015 run for mayor, in addition to the American Federation of Teachers, who wrote a $400,000 check Tuesday to support Johnson’s campaign.

“We just celebrated the life a legacy of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Johnson said. “And he made it very clear the labor rights movement and the civil rights movement — that collision has enormous potential.”

Garcia picked up an endorsement from Illinois House of Representatives majority leader Robyn Gabel Tuesday, on top of the 14 labor unions that the congressman notes behind him. Garcia has used his record in congress as a reminder for voters as he hammers home his policy stances.

“I’ve delivered for the city of Chicago. Congress delivers bringing COVID resources to save lives,” Garcia said. “We’d be in a terrible fiscal morass were it not for the almost $2 billion that we provided the city of Chicago … The Infrastructure and Jobs Act is responsible for the work that will be done to modernize O’Hare Airport.”

Early voting for the mayor’s election starts next Thursday, Jan. 26, at Chicago’s Board of Election’s supersite at 191 North Clark Street.