Rahm Emanuel wins Chicago mayoral race

Kris Anne Bonifacio

After a roller-coaster journey to the ballot, Northwestern alumnus Rahm Emanuel coasted to victory in Tuesday’s Chicago mayoral election. President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff received 55 percent of the votes with 97 percent of the polls reporting, easily beating the 50 percent mark to avoid an April run-off.

Emanuel, who received a master’s in speech and communication from NU in 1985, defeated five other candidates, including former president of Chicago Public Schools Gery Chico, Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle and former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun.

Emanuel will be sworn in May 16.

“Thank you, Chicago, for this humbling victory,” Emanuel said at his watch party. “All I can say: You sure know how to make a guy feel at home.”

The Chicago native faced a long legal battle to be on the ballot for the office that retiring mayor Richard M. Daley will be leaving in May after 22 years in office. This was the first election in 64 years in which a sitting mayor was not on the ballot.

Candidates are required to reside in Chicago for at least a year prior to the elections, and Emanuel, who returned to Chicago last October after resigning from his White House post to run for the mayoral position, has been at the center of a residency debate since December.

Less than a month prior to the election – and just days before early voting began – an appellate court ruled Emanuel ineligible to run because he did not meet the residency requirement, reversing the decisions of the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners and a Cook County judge. Emanuel filed for an appeal in the Supreme Court the following day.

“I have no doubt that we will, in the end, prevail in this effort.” Emanuel said at the time. “I do believe that the people of the city of Chicago deserve the right to make a decision of who they want to be their next mayor.”

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled three days later that Emanuel was eligible to run and should remain on the ballot.

In the days leading up to the election, Emanuel also dealt with the possibility of an April 5 runoff if he did not get at least 50 percent of the vote. A Feb. 10 Chicago Tribune/WGN poll, the last before the election, put Emanuel’s spport at 49 percent. Chico and Braun followed, at 19 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

“We’re in solid condition (to cause a runoff),” Brooke Anderson, Chico’s spokesperson, told The Daily last week. “Gery is appealing to citizens of every community.”

But while Chico took second in Tuesday’s elections, Emanuel’s commanding lead was never in doubt. The first reported results Tuesday night put Emanuel’s share of the vote above 50 percent, and he never went below the mark. Polls started reporting around 7:45 p.m., and, by 8:30 p.m., CNN projected Emanuel’s eventual win. Chico conceded the race shortly after.

“We’ve elected a mayor tonight,” Chico said at his watch party. “I want with all of my heart for Rahm Emanuel to be successful as mayor. We need that, ladies and gentlemen.”

Emanuel said during his campaign that he wanted to address the city’s safety by putting 1,000 more cops on the streets of Chicago and pushing for stronger gun control in the city and throughout the state and country. He said he also wanted to revamp the public school system by holding principals accountable for their schools’ performances and rewarding teachers for great work.

As for transportation, he called for extending the Red Line further south and improving stations in the north suburbs.

He also said he hoped to focus on small and innovative businesses, and he voiced support for bringing grocery stores to each neighborhood and allowing food trucks back in Chicago.

“While this election was hard-fought, it was only the beginning,” Emanuel said Tuesday night. “We have not won anything until a kid can go to school thinking of their studies and not their safety … or until the parents of that child is thinking about their work and not where they’re going to find work.

“We have not won anything,” he said. “The real work of building a better future begins tonight.”

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