Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday that he won’t seek re-election, making the surprise announcement he won’t try for a third term to lead the nation’s third-largest city.
A former Democratic congressman and top adviser to presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Emanuel is one of the most high-profile mayors in the nation.
But Emanuel faced a difficult re-election battle when he was due to face voters in February – more than 10 candidates had already announced their intention to try to oust him – as the city racked up billions in unmet pension debt and a soaring murder rate in recent years.
“As much as I love this job and will always love this city and its residents, I have decided not to seek re-election,” Emanuel said. “This has been the job of a lifetime, but it is not a job for a lifetime. You hire us to get things done – and pass the torch when we’ve done our best to do what you hired us to do.”
With Chicago enduring daunting levels of gun violence, a $36 billion public worker pension crisis and discontent in some corners of the city’s African-American population with his leadership, the two-term mayor finds himself facing a crowded battlefield for reelection.
Emanuel, a former congressman who served as chief of staff in the Obama White House and a senior aide in Clinton White House, last faced voters in 2015, several months before the release of controversial police shooting caught on video of Laquan McDonald.
The Emanuel administration was forced by court order to make the video public 400 days after the incident and several months after the mayor had won re-election. The mayor’s critics argue that Emanuel, who saw his support erode in the city’s large African-American community following the video’s release, would not have won re-election had it come out earlier.
Emanuel said he did not watch the video, which appears to show that the 17-year-old McDonald was veering away from officers when he was shot 16 times by officer Jason Van Dyke, until it was set to be publicly released.
The officer was charged with first-degree murder on the same day of the video’s release.
Emanuel made his bombshell announcement one day before jury selection was set to begin in Van Dyke’s trial.
“I have approached public service the only way I know how for the last 23 years – giving 100 percent, 24 hours a day, seven days a week – for President Clinton, in Congress and in its leadership, as President Obama’s chief of staff and finally as your mayor,” Emanuel said. “For the last seven and a half years I’ve given my all every day and left everything on the field.”
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