Bernie Sanders has tried to make the presidential primary vote in and around Chicago into a referendum on Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but Hillary Clinton won’t be giving him more ammunition when she visits the city on Monday.
The Democratic presidential candidate and the former Clinton and Obama White House aide aren’t expected to see each other while she’s in town, Emanuel’s office said Sunday. Clinton often meets with, or is introduced by, mayors or other elected officials who have endorsed her as she campaigns across the country.
Adam Collins, a spokesman for Emanuel, said the mayor’s “focus remains on the job voters hired him to do last year, create opportunities for people across the city and tackle the challenges Chicago faces.” While Emanuel and Clinton won’t be meeting because “their respective schedules [won't] make it possible,” Collins said, “the mayor's support for President Clinton and Secretary Clinton is well known.”
Clinton is set to speak to the Plumbers' Joint Apprenticeship Committee Local 130 in the Near West Side, a mile away from where protests broke out Friday on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus ahead of a Donald Trump rally that was ultimately canceled.
Emanuel, who served as a senior adviser in Bill Clinton’s White House, has been under pressure as his police department faces a federal investigation into the alleged cover-up of a video of the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. His approval rating was at a record low of 27 percent in a poll conducted for the Chicago Tribune in January, and four in 10 Chicagoans want Emanuel to resign. Half of the black and Latino voters surveyed said they want Emanuel to step down.
Aware of Emanuel’s vulnerabilities, Sanders has hammered the mayor in the run-up to Tuesday’s Illinois presidential primary, hoping to make him a Clinton liability.
“Hillary Clinton proudly lists Mayor Rahm Emanuel as one of her leading mayoral endorsers,” he said at a Saturday press conference. “Well, let me be as clear as I can be: based on his disastrous record as mayor of the city of Chicago, I do not want Mayor Emanuel’s endorsement if I win the Democratic nomination.”
The Sanders campaign is airing ads featuring Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia, who lost to Emanuel in last year’s mayoral election, and Chicago school principal Troy LaRaviere started airing in the city last week. “In Chicago, we have endured a corrupt political system, and the chief politician standing in the way of us getting good schools is our mayor,” LaRaviere says in an education-focused ad. “If you have a presidential candidate who supports someone like our mayor, you have a candidate who’s not willing to take on the establishment.”
Karen Finney, a Clinton advisor for communications and political outreach, said Sanders' focus on Emanuel is an effort to distract from Clinton's strengths on criminal justice, education and other issues. “Time and again our opponent and his supporters try to use the behavior of others to smear Hillary. So it’s not surprising they'd try to do so in her hometown,” she said. Clinton grew up in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge.
While the candidate won't be meeting with the mayor, Bill Clinton spent time with Emanuel when visiting the city last week. And Emanuel regularly speaks to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, another White House veteran.
Clinton and Emanuel had a mutually guarded relationship during their time in the White House but have been publicly supportive of each other as they’ve both pursued elected office. As Emanuel has struggled in the past year, Clinton has been luke-warm in her support.
“Mayor Emanuel has said that he is committed to complete and total reform, and I think that he should be held to that standard,” she said in January on NBC’s Meet the Press.
His credibility, she added, is “going to be up to him and up to the people of Chicago to prove.”