Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will not be seeking re-election in 2019. “This has been the job of a lifetime, but it is not a job for a lifetime,” he told reporters Tuesday.
“For the last seven and a half years I’ve given my all every day and left everything on the field. This commitment has required significant sacrifice all around,” said Emanuel as he choked back tears. “We have more to do and from now until then, we will do everything in our power to get it done and walk out the door hopefully leaving Chicago and Chicagoans in a better place.”
Mayor Emanuel worked in the White House under Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama before winning the mayorship in 2011. He was re-elected in 2015.
While Obama has described Emanuel as a “tireless and brilliant public servant,” I would describe him as the worst mayor in Chicago’s history (just like his boss was the worst president in history).
Under Emanuel’s leadership, the city of Chicago saw a record number of school closings, massive increases in property tax, and a dramatic uptick in crime, gun violence, and murder.
Emanuel earned the nickname “Mayor 1 Percent” for his close association with business leaders and his support from local millionaires. In August, he faced widespread criticism after blaming the violence in minority neighborhoods on a ‘lack of morals.’
More than anything else, Emanuel will be remembered for his response to the shooting of Laquan McDonald, a black teen who was shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke in October 2014.
Rather than investigate the cop and the police department, Emanuel fought for over a year to keep video footage of the shooting private. When the video was finally released, Officer Van Dyke was hit with murder charges and the feds launched an investigation into the Chicago Police Department.
The incident led to street protests calling on Emanuel to resign and damaged his support among black voters.
Officer Van Dyke’s murder trial begins this week. And while Emanuel said the trial had nothing to do with his decision, announcing his resignation now removes the possibility that he will look reactive to a verdict.
“I believe we will replace him with someone better. But I also believe firmly that this is a victory NOW,” tweeted Chicago poet Eve Ewing. “If I could choose between winning the lottery and this, this is what I would have chosen.”
When asked why he would not be seeking a third term as mayor, Emanuel said he wanted to spend the “next chapter” of his life with his wife and his three children. He described his professional and personal lives as two planes preparing to land on separate runways.
But in all likelihood, Emanuel knows he could not win a third term.
“Sources close to Emanuel said the family considerations were key, but so, too, was the reality that he would spend the next eight months in a bruising campaign that would feature him getting attacked from all sides,” notes The Chicago Tribune.
There are already 12 candidates in the race to replace Emanuel, including former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy (D), former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot (progressive), Principals Association President Troy LaRaviere (progressive), and former Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas (D).
“Today I thanked Rahm Emanuel for finally doing the right thing for the people of Chicago by stepping down and opting not to run for a third term as mayor of Chicago,” wrote LaRaviere. “During the past seven years, City Hall has served the interests of the 1 percent. Emanuel has never been our mayor. He’s been their mayor. Now is the time to act.”
In case you can’t tell from the way he talks, LaRaviere worked with Bernie Sanders in 2016.
Chicago’s mayoral election will be held on February 26th. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote (which is likely), a run-off between the top two candidates will be held on April 2nd.