News & Politics

With Rahm's Withdrawal, Chicago Mayor's Race Is Wide Open

(AP Photo/Christian K. Lee, File)

The political bombshell dropped on Chicago yesterday with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s announcement that he would not seek another term has literally blown up Democratic politics in the city and the state.

Before Emanuel’s statement, there were five candidates of varying credibility who were challenging him for the Democratic nomination. But now that Emanuel is out, Democrats are crawling out from every rock and from under the floorboards hinting they will run. This suggests a race that will not only be wide open, but will probably pit some of the best known Democrats in the state against each other.

So why did Rahm do it? He was really in no danger of losing the primary. With so many candidates and his still formidable political machine, it would have taken an exceptional candidate to beat him. None of his challengers were well known or particularly well funded.

But it would have no doubt been a bruising, bloody primary fight that would have left Emanuel in a weakened political position going into his third term. Considering the immense challenges facing the city — racial tensions, police reform, a pension crisis, budget and fiscal woes, the lowest bond rating of any major city in America — he probably thought to himself to hell with it, let someone else have this crummy job.

Indeed, friend and ally of Emanuel, David Axelrod, suggested as much in Politico:

Longtime ally and confidant David Axelrod said the decision was gut-wrenching for Emanuel, a sharp-elbowed pol who carved out a role on the national stage and wasn’t built to back down from a tough challenge.

“He agonized over it. He didn’t make a decision until the last week and finally had to be honest with himself about whether it was good for him and good for the city to sign up for another four years. It’s a tough decision to make,” Axelrod said in an interview. “I admire him for it. No one has ever doubted his energy or ambition for himself or the city. It was a thoughtful decision on his part to conclude this is the right time.”

The question is, who will want the job of mayor in a city that’s become a shooting gallery for gangs and a fiscal basket case?

You’d be amazed at Democrats who are lining up for the abuse.

Chicago Tribune:

Without the deep-pocketed, politically hard-nosed incumbent exerting his gravitational pull on the contest, the dozen candidates who already lined up to challenge him will try to stand out in a Chicago-style free-for-all.

But there’s plenty of time for someone who already has a political organization in place to gather the thousands of required petition signatures by late November to get on the February ballot.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle — newly the head of the county Democratic Party — was making phone calls Tuesday afternoon to gauge political support for a potential mayoral run, according to a source close to her.

Plus, 2011 mayoral candidate Gery Chico said he’s thinking about another run, according to a senior strategist for his earlier campaign. Meanwhile, a source close to city Treasurer Kurt Summers said Tuesday he was “strongly considering” getting in the race.

Other sources said state Comptroller Susana Mendoza, former White House chief of staff Bill Daley and GCM Grosvenor CEO Michael Sacks, Emanuel’s close friend, confidant and top campaign donor, also are making calls to weigh bids.

Northwest Side Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno, 1st, didn’t rule out running for mayor, saying he didn’t think any of the current crop of candidates “has shown they’re a progressive who can get things done” the way he has in the City Council. And Ald. Ricardo Munoz, 22nd, who recently announced his retirement from the City Council after more than two decades, said the mayor’s surprise announcement has him considering a run.

After abandoning a short-lived primary bid for governor last year, Ald. Ameya Pawar, 47th, said on Tuesday he will “seriously consider” running. He isn’t running for re-election to the council.

Wrigleyville Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th, said he wouldn’t rule it out either. “I haven’t seen a strong pro-business candidate in the field other than the current mayor,” said Tunney, who owns the Ann Sather restaurants. “I’m very concerned about the climate for small businesses in this city.”

And Anna Valencia, the city clerk and highest ranking Latina in city government, also announced her interest.

Like cockroaches looking for the peanut butter.

But most of the aldermen and minor Cook County functionaries who’ve expressed an interest would be in immediate trouble if the real heavyweights took the stage:

As the potential field continues to grow, some bigger-name candidates might take their time to weigh a bid. Former Secretary of Education for President Barack Obama and former CPS CEO Arne Duncan and former White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett have long been discussed as possible mayoral candidates. Both could garner the former president’s backing and the support of the wealthy donors who’ve underwritten Emanuel’s campaigns. Neither could be reached for comment Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Lisa Madigan declined to comment on whether she would consider running. When she announced last autumn she wouldn’t run for re-election, a source close to Emanuel said Madigan had previously told the mayor she didn’t plan to run. Efforts to reach 2015 Emanuel foe Jesus “Chuy” Garcia were unsuccessful, and calls to Democratic U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez and Daley, the brother of former mayor Richard M. Daley, were not returned. Mendoza also could not be reached for comment about her plans.

Madigan is the daughter of the King of Illinois, Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan who, if he gave the order to jump, would have Cook County Democrats asking how high.

All of these top-tier candidates have been proven fundraisers and could win in February. But what’s fascinating about this coming race is the growing power and influence of the radical left.

The minority community has been radicalized by several high-profile police shootings, including that of Laquan McDonald, an unarmed black kid gunned down by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot McDonald 16 times — 9 times in the back as the young man lay on the ground. Coincidentally, Van Dyke’s trial started yesterday and the city is bracing for an explosion if the cop is found not guilty.

So progressives are poised to gain 6-8 seats on the city council and one of the many radical candidates currently running may very well emerge as the top challenger to whichever establishment (“regular”) Democrat wins the vote in February. The top two vote getters will run off in March for the nomination and inevitable victory in April’s election.