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Rahm Emanuel Forced Into April Runoff Mayoral Election Despite Having Every Advantage Imaginable

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 25, 2015 4:00AM

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (left) and Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia will face off again in April.

It’s a historic night in Chicago as Mayor Rahm Emanuel, despite overwhelming advantages in fundraising, advertising, endorsements and name recognition in his re-election campaign, was forced into an April 7 runoff against Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia after Emanuel failed to gain the 50 percent plus one vote necessary to win re-election outright. With nearly 95 percent of precincts reporting, Emanuel has 45.39 percent of the vote to Garcia’s 33.91 percent.

Emanuel became increasingly desperate in the late stages of the campaign as polls strongly indicated he would be forced into a runoff, and made a late push for black voters he alienated after his 2011 election. The mayor amassed a $15 million campaign fund and spent $7 million in television ads in November—enough to air his ads continuously for nearly a week. But his controversial moves during his time in office such as his decision to close mental health clinics and, most notably, his decision to shut down 50 Chicago Public Schools in 2013, led to a growing “anyone but Rahm” sentiment that coalesced as the campaign moved forward.

Garcia announced his campaign for mayor last October but became a serious contender after Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union a thorn in Emanuel’s side the past four years, decided not to mount her own campaign after being diagnosed with a brain tumor and endorsed Garcia. That endorsement opened Garcia to a slew of five- and six-figure campaign contributions from public sector unions and their associated Political Action Committees. Garcia’s handlers also managed to form a strong, young campaign and volunteer staff of progressives.

Emanuel thanked supporters for their “vote of confidence;” congratulated Garcia and opponents, lad. Bob Fioretti, businessman Willie Wilson and perennial candidate William “Dock Walls;” and said he looked forward to a “debate on the issues.”

“We’ve come a long way, but we have a little bit further to go,” Emanuel said. “For those who voted for someone else, I hope to earn your confidence.”

Garcia touted his underdog bona fides to his supporters. “They said we didn’t have a chance,” Garcia shouted. “But we’re still standing. We’re still running. And we’re gonna win!”

"Today, we the people have spoken, not the people with the money and the power and the connections," Garcia added.

Another factor for the runoff has to be the low voter turnout. The Chicago Board of Elections said the total votes cast was on par to match the record low of 33 percent in 2007. There are 1.4 million registered voters in Chicago.

This is the first mayoral runoff election since the Illinois Legislature changed the laws in the 1990s.