Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel won a second term Tuesday in a runoff election campaign that hinged on the serious financial challenges facing the third-largest U.S. city and the brusque management style of the former White House chief of staff.
Emanuel was forced to campaign furiously across the city to beat Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia after failing to capture a majority against four other candidates in a February election. The mayoral runoff was the first since the city changed the way it conducts elections in the 1990s.
With about three-quarters of precincts reporting results, Emanuel had 56 per cent of the vote compared to 44 per cent for Garcia.
The incumbent highlighted tough decisions he has made since succeeding former Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2011, but admitted that his management approach too often rubbed city residents the wrong way. He portrayed Garcia as too inexperienced to handle the city’s financial crunch.
Emanuel raised far more money than Garcia, plastered the airwaves with ads and had support from his former boss, President Barack Obama, who cast an early ballot for him from Washington.
Garcia, a former community organizer, alderman and state lawmaker, ran a campaign focused on the city’s neighbourhoods, with support from teachers and unions upset with Emanuel. He accused the mayor of being out of touch with voters and blamed him for the fiscal problems, while playing up the mayor’s push to close about 50 schools and a gang violence problem that spiked during Emanuel’s first term.
He also vowed to end Chicago’s troubled red-light camera system, which some residents believe is discriminatory and focuses more on raising revenue than public safety.
Both campaigns were short on specifics on how to deal with the city’s underfunded pension systems, which will lead to ballooning expenditures in the year ahead. Still, business groups and executives and the city’s major newspapers backed Emanuel, while Garcia enjoyed support from activists and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a civil rights leader.