BY RICHARD GREEN – “Thank you Chicago for this humbling victory. All I can say…you sure know how to make a guy feel at home,” Emanuel said during his victory speech.
Four months after stepping down as U.S. President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel has been elected mayor of the midwestern city of Chicago, Illinois, the third largest in the United States. After overcoming bitter opposition from his political rivals, he must now lead the city through major economic challenges.
Against a field of five other candidates, Rahm Emanuel won 55 percent of all votes cast in Tuesday’s election, allowing him to avoid a second round of voting and win the mayor’s office outright.
Emanuel left the Obama administration in October to move back to his hometown and run for the job, a month after the incumbent, Richard M. Daley, announced he would not run for re-election after 22 years in office.
Despite having served the city for several years in the U.S. Congress, Emanuel had to overcome a court challenge dealing with his eligibility to become mayor. He then mounted a round-the-clock campaign throughout the ethnically diverse city to make up for his late entry into the race.
“What makes this victory most gratifying is that is was built on votes on every corner of this city,” he said.
In the end, Emanuel won support from Chicago’s large African-American and Hispanic populations.
“It’s a victory for all of those who believe that we can overcome the old divisions and the old ways that have held Chicago back,” Emanuel said. “It is easy, it is easy, to find differences… but we can never allow them to become divisions.”
Emanuel will become Chicago’s first Jewish mayor when he is sworn in May. He will walk into office facing a budget deficit of more than $600 million, massive shortfalls in the city employees’ pension fund and declining numbers in the city’s population of more than two million people.