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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Emanuel Triumphs in Chicago Mayoral Race - NYTimes.com

Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff, form...Image via WikipediaEmanuel Triumphs in Chicago Mayoral Race - NYTimes.com

By MONICA DAVEY
CHICAGO — Rahm Emanuel, a former congressman who worked for two presidents, was elected mayor of Chicago on Tuesday, a victory that marks a new path for a city that has, for 22 years, been led by a singular, powerful force, Richard M. Daley.

Mr. Emanuel, who will take office in May, had 55 percent of the vote against five other candidates with 90 percent of the precincts reporting.

The victory allows him to avoid a one-on-one runoff election in April that had been seen by some opponents as their best chance to defeat Mr. Emanuel.

His closest competitor, Gery J. Chico, a former chief of staff to Mr. Daley, came in second, with 24 percent of the vote. After Mr. Chico spoke on the telephone to Mr. Emanuel on Tuesday evening, Mr. Chico told his supporters that he had pledged his support, from here on out, to Mr. Emanuel's efforts for Chicago.

"Let’s all work together to get behind the new mayor," Mr. Chico told a subdued group during his brief concession speech, "and make this the best city on the face of the earth."

Mr. Emanuel, 51, is well known to nearly everyone here — less, perhaps, for his years as a congressman from the North Side than for his ties to President Obama, a fellow Chicagoan for whom he served as the White House chief of staff.

Some voters here viewed that connection as both an affirmation to support Mr. Emanuel and as a potential advantage for Chicago in its future dealings with Washington.

As the next mayor of this city, the nation’s third largest, Mr. Emanuel faces significant challenges. He must cope with staggering unfunded pension liabilities, as well as a budget deficit around $600 million, by some estimates. Easy fixes — the proceeds of privatization deals of the city’s parking meters, for instance — have already been used. Meanwhile, the city’s population of 2.69 million is smaller than it was a decade ago, unhappy news for a new mayor who would wish to see a growing tax base.

“There are no more rabbits to pull out of the hat,” said Joe Moore, an alderman from the North Side for the last 20 years, referring to the city’s budget of about $6 billion. “What is left for the next mayor and the next City Council is a series of bad choices — cutting services, perhaps raising taxes and fees.”

A Daley (the current mayor or his father, Richard J., who operated with a similarly tight control) has run this city for 42 of the past 55 years, and Mr. Emanuel, the city’s first Jewish mayor, is likely to be compared with that family’s legacy at every turn.

Among the questions certain to arise: How does he now handle the city’s 50 aldermen, some of whose political careers were owed to the current mayor and others who pressed for Mr. Emanuel’s opponents?

How may he push to change city workers’ pensions, a system he has described as unsustainable? And how does he soothe differences that arose during a tense campaign — differences with public-sector unions that endorsed Mr. Chico and with African-American leaders who pushed for Carol Moseley Braun, the first black woman in the United States Senate?

Mr. Emanuel — who has spent plenty of time working behind the scenes for other politicians, including Mayor Daley and President Bill Clinton — has long been known for his tough-guy methods of negotiating, his harsh, blunt retorts, and his use of four-letter words. But over the last five months, in his own campaign, Mr. Emanuel showed a far more reserved side. That left some here wondering which Mr. Emanuel — fierce or muted — may next appear, with the campaign over and the governing ahead.

Mr. Emanuel had long suggested that he would love to be the mayor of Chicago, his birthplace. But his immediate road to City Hall began last September, when Mayor Daley stunned this city and announced he would not seek a seventh term. That meant the first mayoral election in 64 years without a sitting mayor on the ballot, and a huge crop of would-be candidates began emerging from seemingly every political rank.

In October, Mr. Emanuel left his post as White House chief of staff to return to Chicago for a run, and the number of candidates quickly began shrinking. In the months that followed, he would raise some $13 million andcampaign at more than 100 neighborhood L trainstations, 229 neighborhood stops and20 schools.

In the end, the effort — far more elaborate and expensive than his five opponents’ — spared him from a runoff in April. Some opponents had viewed that second race — a head-to-head race with only one candidate — as the only chance of defeating Mr. Emanuel.

At points in the campaign, Mr. Emanuel’s inevitability faltered over a seemingly simple question: Was he really a resident of Chicago? Critics challenged him, saying his time at the White House meant he failed to meet a requirement that candidates live in Chicago for the year immediately before Election Day. The Illinois Supreme Court found that he was allowed to run — he had never lost legal residency at his North Side home, the justices found — but not before the issue became a major drama here, with election workers, at one point, urgently halting the printing of ballots.

If the residency battle ultimately drew sympathy to Mr. Emanuel, it also raised a question that his opponents had quietly pressed on all along: Was he a true, die-hard Chicagoan the way Mr. Daley — an avid White Sox fan and a constant, if gruff cheerleader for his city — was a Chicagoan? Mr. Emanuel spent part of his youth in the northern suburbs, in addition to his working time in Washington — details regularly noted by his critics.

But voters who chose him on Tuesday seemed to dismiss the question. “Who cares if he lived on the North Shore?” said Ben Fogel, a social worker who said he was voting for Mr. Emanuel. “I have family there, and it is close enough.” The distinction was silly now, his supporters said, a nonissue in a post-Daley world.

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