Chicago, September 4, 2018 – in an emotional address, his voice sometimes choking, and standing with his wife Amy, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on Tuesday he would not seek another term as Chicago’s mayor.
Mayor Emanuel said that while he and his wife are still relatively young, they look to move on to the next chapter of their lives together. “Many politicians say they are leaving to spend more time with their family. In this case it’s true.” the mayor said
Reacting to the news of his announcement, Speaker Madigan issued a statement, “I want to thank Rahm Emanuel for his service to our city as a member of Congress, as chief of staff to President Obama, and most notably as our mayor. Mayor Emanuel offered steady leadership through difficult times. His efforts to balance the budget, stabilize pensions, and make tough decisions consistently reflected his commitment to do what was best for the future of our city, not what was easy. As Chicago continues to move forward and grow as an international city, we will remain grateful for Mayor Emanuel’s leadership.”
Mayor Emanuel will have served two terms when he’s finished in the Spring of 2019, and had been expected to run again. Previously he’d served as White House Chief of Staff under President Obama and as a member of the US House of Representatives.
Rahm Emanuel’s term as mayor has faced many controversies – from the city’s finances, the closing of schools, and the unfunded liabilities in the city’s pension systems. But it’s been the explosion of violence in the city and the ever-increasing number of shootings and murders, particularly in the city’s south and west sides, that’s been among the most vexing and where Mayor Emanuel faced some of the harshest criticism.
The former Police Chief, Gary McCarthy, who was hired and then fired by Mayor Emanuel, is now a candidate for mayor. McCarthy says in his campaign that it is Mayor Emanuel’s policies that have lead to the explosion in violence, and McCarthy notes the murder rate jumped after he was fired and police enforcement was changed.
One of the most controversial episodes of the Emanuel administration occurred when a young African-American man, Laquan McDonald, was fatally shot 16 times by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke on October 20, 2014. A video of McDonald’s shooting, showing he was not charging at police when he was shot, was withheld from public release for over a year — and not released until November, 2015. That was seven months AFTER Mayor Emanuel’s re-election in the Spring of 2015.
While other Democrats generally are supported by the teachers’ union, Karen Lewis, of the Chicago Teachers’ Union has often been among the mayor’s harshest critics. Upon the news of his announcement, Karen Lewis issued a statement that welcomed his leaving, ”
“We have been saying for almost eight years that this mayor did not deserve this office, but we are perplexed as to why he would make the announcement on a day that should have focused on the return of our students to their schools. Today’s news has catapulted the public into a discussion cloaked in political intrigue, but part of that discussion must now be how critical it is that we elect a mayor who abandons Emanuel’s lethal, neoliberal policies and puts the city on a more just and equitable path.
“Chicagoans want an end to our un-elected, rubber stamp Chicago Board of Education, and the right to elect a representative school board that puts transparency, accountability and the needs of our students above all else. We demand an end to Rahm’s educational hunger games and his immoral student-based budgeting scheme, which treats every student like a dollar sign and denies our poorest students the opportunity to live up to their promise. We want a truly sustainable community school district—one modeled on the pilot program that our union embedded in our contract that will, at last, launch this fall. This model ensures that each student receives the supports and resources they need.
“We want an end to the crony contracts, profiteering privatization and apartheid-like educational policies that the incumbent has burdened our families with for the last eight years. Our city needs progressive revenue, and the rich must pay their fair share.”
Aside from McCarthy, there are a handful of candidates for Chicago mayor that were already challenging Rahm Emanuel. It was generally presumed that Mayor Emanuel was likely to win re-election. Now the future of Chicago politics is certain to enter a brand new phase, and how many more candidates will yet begin a campaign to lead the city, is open to the imagination.