Rahm Emanuel wins second mandate as Chicago mayor
Rahm Emanuel won re-election Tuesday as voters in Chicago’s first mayoral runoff decided that, despite his brusque management style, the former White House chief of staff was best equipped to deal with the many dire challenges facing the third-largest U.S. city.
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 about 20 years ago.
With nearly all voting precincts reporting results, Emanuel had about 56 percent of the vote compared to around 44 percent for Garcia.
The incumbent highlighted tough decisions he’s 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.
Beginning Wednesday, the mayor faces huge obstacles in his second term, from fixing the worst-funded pension systems of any big U.S. city to stemming stubborn violence and confronting labor unions that just spent millions trying to defeat him.
Chicago’s four pension systems are about US$20 billion in debt, and the fund for Chicago Public Schools teachers is short about US$7 billion of what’s needed to pay benefits as promised.
If Emanuel can’t work a deal with labor unions or get the Illinois Legislature to approve relief, the city is on the hook for an additional US$550 million yearly payment to the retirement accounts, bringing the total payment to about US$1 billion.