Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama, formally announced his plans to replace Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley amid a narrowing field of candidates.
“Only the opportunity to help President Obama as his chief of staff could have pried me away from Chicago,” Emanuel, a former Illinois congressman, said today during an appearance in a public school gymnasium. “And only the opportunity to lead this city could have pried me away from the president’s side.”
Emanuel announced his candidacy for the Feb. 22 election a day before U.S. Representative Danny Davis and Illinois state Senator James Meeks, minister of one of Chicago’s largest churches, are scheduled to say they will also run.
Others who have already announced or have said they will do so soon include City Clerk Miguel del Valle, former Chicago school board president Gery Chico, and former U.S. Senator and New Zealand Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun.
Emanuel, 50, is the only white candidate, after Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart decided against running. Non-Hispanic whites constitute 32 percent of Chicago’s population.
Emanuel, whose congressional district comprised parts of the city’s north side and northwest suburbs before joining the Obama administration, is planning to start a television advertising campaign Nov. 15, said Ben LaBolt, a spokesman.
He has begun lining up support from corporate leaders. A Nov. 15 fundraiser for him will be co-hosted by Glenn Tilton, United Continental Holdings Inc. chairman, and Miles White, CEO of Abbott Laboratories, among others.
Braun has the support of John Rogers Jr., the chairman of Chicago-based Ariel Investments LLC and an early Obama fundraiser.
Daley said Sept. 7 that he wouldn’t seek re-election to a seventh term. The contest to replace the leader of the third-largest U.S. city based on population comes at a time when Chicago faces an estimated $654.7 million deficit. The city had a 10.6 percent unemployment rate in September.
Standard & Poor’s on Nov. 5 said it downgraded the city’s credit rating one step to A+, the fifth-highest investment grade, partly because of the Daley administration’s “heavy reliance on nonrecurring revenues to bridge its 2011 budget gap, including the use of most of its remaining reserves from the sale of its parking meters.”
Emanuel referred to those actions in his announcement speech. “We cannot keep putting off hard choices and hoping things will get better, while drawing down each year on rapidly diminishing reserves,” he said. “We must face the fact that Chicago has a structural deficit and that strong measures are required to change the unsustainable course we are on.”
Daley Era Ending
Chicago has been led by the current Daley or his father, the late Richard J. Daley, for almost 43 of the past 55 years.
Public records show Emanuel earned at least $17 million in three years as an investment banker after leaving the presidential administration of Bill Clinton in 1998. He served Clinton as political director and a senior adviser.
Nov. 22 is the last day to file nomination papers for the election. If no mayoral candidate gets more than 50 percent, there will be an April 5 runoff for the top two vote-getters.