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Rahm Emanuel Works Chicago's Tribes on Day One of 'Listening Tour'

3 years ago
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Chicago's tribal politics break along ethnic, racial, religious, economic, geographic and even sexual-orientation lines, and mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel spent his first day of campaigning in the city on Monday targeting these various groups as he kicked off what he has termed his "listening tour."

At "L" stops, stores and community centers, mobbed by local and national reporters, Emanuel started his day at 7:30 a.m., hitting pockets of African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Jews, gays, white ethnics, Indian-Americans, Pakistani-Americans, Irish-Americans -- groups he'll need to survive the Feb. 22 primary and win the April 5 general election. By the end of his first campaign day, Emanuel hit 12 Chicago neighborhoods from the far South Side to the far North Side.

Emanuel quit his White House chief of staff job on Friday, after President Barack Obama gave him a grand East Room send-off, and arrived back in Chicago on Sunday. He posted his announcement video on his new website and hit the streets on Monday and will continue his "Tell it Like it Is" tour on Tuesday.



The story so far:

-- Emanuel will face a likely challenge from a rival camp on whether he is eligible to run for mayor because he rented his Chicago residence to a tenant after he moved his family to Washington in 2009. The Chicago Sun-Times' Abdon M. Pallasch reported on Sunday that "two of Chicago's top election lawyers say the state's municipal code is crystal clear that a candidate for mayor must reside in the town for a year before the election."

Lori Goldberg, an Emanuel spokeswoman, told Politics Daily: "Rahm is confident that he meets the residency requirements and that any challenge will be thrown out. This is just an effort by opponents to distract press and voters. Most of the negative comments in the press are from lawyers like [Burt] Odelson who already have been retained by opponents."

The Sun-Times reported that on Monday, Emanuel "deflected questions about Monday's Sun-Times stories quoting election lawyers who say he is ineligible to run for mayor."

"The main thing isn't about my residency -- it's about the residents of the City of Chicago and their concerns," Emanuel told reporters in the parking lot of a South Loop supermarket, avoiding other questions.

-- Obama's lovefest played big nationally -- cable news ate it up and Emanuel used the video of the event extensively on his website -- but it also created a backlash of sorts.

Reported Fran Spielman, the veteran City Hall reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times: "President Obama's royal send-off for Rahm Emanuel may have played well in Washington today, but it laid an egg at Chicago's City Hall. Some aldermen were downright offended by what they perceived to be Obama's attempt to dictate Chicago's next mayor by praising his departing chief of staff to the hilt."

Whether Obama will make a formal Emanuel endorsement is being debated internally in the White House.

Obama returns to Chicago on Thursday to headline a fund-raiser for Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, the president's second visit home to help his basketball-playing buddy deadlocked in polls with GOP nominee Mark Kirk.

In the mayoral-centric Chicago -- the Nov. 2 governor and Senate races for now are backseat to the race to replace Mayor Richard M. Daley next year -- Obama's Chicago stop will only fuel speculation about if Obama will or should endorse -- and when.

"I am just concerned that the mayor's race is overshadowing the Nov. 2 race," Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) told Politics Daily. "I want to stay out of it and work on get-out-the-vote for Nov. 2."

On Monday, senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett declined to be drawn into the matter when Mark Halprin pressed her about an Obama endorsement on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"The coverage of Rahm has been wall-to-wall and brutal," Halprin said to Jarrett. "Part of his problem, as you know, is this is a pretty diverse city with a lot of different constituencies. I understand why the president has to be kind of laid back, but Nancy Pelosi endorsed Rahm for mayor. I'm wondering if this morning you'll endorse Rahm and say he's your choice for mayor of Chicago?"

Jarrett replied: "I don't think anybody is interested in my choice for mayor of Chicago. My focus is right here and he hasn't even announced yet. I think this weekend he announced he's doing his listening tour; allowing people in Chicago all around the neighborhoods to tell him what they think. So, we'll be watching closely from afar."

Halprin tried again, "So unlike Nancy Pelosi, you're not willing to endorse him?"

"I think the president said it best, 'He'll be a terrific, terrific mayor if he's elected,'" Jarrett said.

-- Emanuel's campaign, put together while he wrapped up his chief of staff duties in Washington, is born fully grown.

Emanuel is reuniting his political family for his mayoral run. He is using AKPD as his main consultants -- White House senior adviser David Axelrod's old firm. Pete Giangreco, who is also advising Giannoulias and was a key member of the Obama presidential campaign, will handle direct mail and other chores. Jasculca Terman, a firm with longtime ties to Axelrod and Daley, is orchestrating the Emanuel launch.

AKPD vice president of political affairs, Buffy Wicks -- one of the nation's top grassroots organizers and a veteran of the Obama presidential campaign who worked for Jarrett in the White House Office of Public Engagement -- is helping Emanuel's organizing efforts.

Emanuel tapped Scott Fairchild, chief of staff for Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) and a veteran of Illinois House campaigns, as his campaign manager.

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