CHICAGO – Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor of Chicago on Tuesday, easily overwhelming five rivals to take the helm of the nation’s third-largest city as it prepares to chart a new course without the retiring Richard M. Daley.
With 98 percent of the precincts reporting, Emanuel had trounced all his opponents with 55 percent of the vote – a margin that allowed him to avoid an April runoff. He needed more than 50 percent of the vote to win outright.
It was the city’s first mayoral race in more than 60 years without an incumbent on the ballot and the first in more than two decades without Daley among the candidates. Daley and his father have led Chicago for more than 43 out of the last 56 years.
Emanuel called the victory “humbling” and thanked Daley for his lifetime of service, saying the outgoing mayor had “earned a special place in our hearts and our history.”
But he added: “We have not won anything until a kid can go to school thinking of their studies and not their safety. Until the parent of that child is thinking about their work and not where they are going to find work, we have not won anything.”
Emanuel, a 51-year-old married father of three, is a well-known figure in national Democratic politics. Emanuel had just been elected to his fourth term in the House of Representatives when he resigned in 2008 to work for fellow Chicagoan President Barack Obama. He resigned in October 2010 to run for Chicago mayor. He had also worked as a top aide to Bill Clinton.
Emanuel will have to decide quickly on a politically unpalatable strategy for improving city finances that may involve raising taxes and cutting services and public employee benefits.