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Rahm Emanuel Wins Chicago Mayoral Race, Thanks Voters for a 'Humbling Victory'

4 years ago
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CHICAGO -- Rahm Emanuel decisively won Tuesday's mayoral election, becoming the city's 55th mayor.

With 98 percent of the city precincts reporting, Emanuel had 55 percent of the vote -- enough to avoid a runoff election. His main rivals were Gery Chico, with 24 percent, City Clerk Miguel del Valle, with 9 percent, and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) with 9 percent. Two other candidates also ran.

"Thank you, Chicago, for this humbling victory," Emanuel said. "All I can say is, you sure know how to make a guy feel at home," a wry reference to the residency challenge that at one time threatened to derail his candidacy.

"What makes this victory most gratifying is that it was built on votes from every corner of the city, from people who believe that a common set of challenges must be met with a common purpose," he said during a victory celebration at a union hall, flanked by his wife, Amy, his three children, and his brothers, Hollywood superagent Ari, and Ezekiel, a White House health policy adviser.

Repeating a line from his stump speech about school safety and jobs, Emanuel talked about those challenges.
"We have not won anything until a kid can go to school thinking of their studies and not their safety," Emanuel said. And the "parent of that child is thinking about their work and not where they are going to find work."
President Obama complimented his former chief of staff, saying in a statement: "I want to extend my congratulations to Rahm Emanuel on a well-deserved victory tonight. As a Chicagoan and a friend, I couldn't be prouder. Rahm will be a terrific mayor for all the people of Chicago."

Former White House senior adviser David Axelrod, a longtime Emanuel friend, was at the victory celebration.

"This is a pretty tremendous win. The possibility was always there. I could see it, but I also felt six people in a race, it is very hard to win a clear majority like this," Axelrod said. If no one won more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters would have competed in an April 5 runoff.

Tuesday's election marked a milestone -- Emanuel is the city's first Jewish mayor -- and the end of the long Daley era in Chicago.

The mayoral election season started with a bang on Sept. 7, 2011, when Mayor Richard M. Daley made a bombshell announcement that he would not seek a seventh term.

"The truth is, I have been thinking about this for the past several months. In the end, this is a personal decision, no more, no less," Daley said.

From his perch in the West Wing, Emanuel, who had been coy publicly about his interest in the mayor's job, immediately started to prepare for a run, staying out of the spotlight until he was ready to quit as chief of staff and return to Chicago.

Emanuel departed the White House on Oct. 1 in a lavish East Room ceremony hosted by the president and orchestrated by Emanuel. It was attended by Cabinet members and top Obama administration staffers. Obama spoke warmly about his chief of staff, and Emanuel made radio and television commercials from the event. While Obama never officially made an endorsement, giving Emanuel permission to make extensive use of the material amounted to a defacto endorsement.

For all his meticulous planning, however, Emanuel never considered that his moving to Washington to work for Obama would yield a challenge to his Chicago residency. But it did. He was tossed off the ballot by an Illinois Court of Appeals panel on grounds that he did not meet residency requirements to run for mayor.

But he ultimately survived the challenge -- the Illinois Supreme Court ordered him back on the ballot -- and the pictures and stories of him sitting through a circus-like residency hearing were a turning point in his campaign, portraying the abrasive Emanuel as a sympathetic character.

A prolific fundraiser, Emanuel quickly amassed a huge political war chest after leaving the White House.

He had a running start, transferring $1.1 million from his federal House fund to his city race. Between Oct. 1, when Emanuel quit as chief of staff, through Dec. 31, he raised an additional $10.5 million to Chico's $2.5 million, Braun's $445,760 and del Valle's $111,499. Each has raised more money since then, but nothing close to closing the gap with Emanuel.

Rahm Israel Emanuel, the son of an Israeli immigrant, was born Nov. 29, 1959 in Chicago. His family moved to the North Shore suburb of Wilmette when he was in elementary school. After graduating from New Trier West High School in 1977, Emanuel received an undergraduate degree from Sarah Lawrence in 1981 and a master's from Northwestern University in 1985.

Emanuel won election to the House of Representatives in 2002 with the help of Daley's political foot soldiers. For years Emanuel has been close to the mayor's brother, William Daley, who replaced him as White House chief of staff. And Emanuel has a deep friendship with Axelrod, who was a key strategist for Mayor Daley. Axelrod's former consulting firm made Emanuel's political commercials.

Daley, the city's 54th mayor, first ran for the job in 1983, but lost the Democratic primary to Harold Washington, who went on to become the city's first black mayor.

Daley, then the Cook County State's Attorney, tried again and took office on April 24, 1989 -- Emanuel helped him raise millions of dollars for that campaign. Daley had been reelected ever since, presiding over an increasingly complacent 50-member City Council.

In May, Daley steps down as the city's longest-serving mayor, ruling Chicago from his fifth-floor City Hall office longer than his father, Richard J. Daley.

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