Mayor Rahm Emanuel could finally declare victory Tuesday night after capturing the outright majority that eluded him six weeks ago.
With the majority of precincts reporting, the mayor leads challenger Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia with 56 percent of the vote to Garcia’s 44 percent. The mayor did exceptionally well in his North Side political base as unofficial reports show that turnout exceeded February’s election.
Yet the mayor also acknowledged in his victory speech the 55 percent of Chicagoans who voted for another candidate in the first round, saying that he would have to change the way he approaches his job.
“Chicago, I hear you,” Emanuel said. “I’m proud of what we’ve done in these past four years. But I understand the challenges we face will require me to approach them differently and work in a different fashion.”
Emanuel was pushed into Chicago first-ever mayoral runoff after he failed to receive 50 percent plus one of the vote in that election. Garcia gained momentum after getting a surprisingly high 34 percent of the vote.
The failure to win outright was seen as a national embarrassment for a man who many think has ambition behind the fifth floor of City Hall. It also set off a debate on the state of the Democratic Party. Progressive wings of the party have been pushing back against pro-business and pro-education reform politicians like Emanuel.
City Clerk Susanna Mendoza believes that the mayor is honest when he says that he gets the message and will change.
“I think that he’s learned that while he may have really great ideas in his head, he also needs to listen to what the community is saying a little bit more,” Mendoza said. “It’s not about personality or about being warm and fuzzy, I’d much rather have a tough, hard-charging mayor that has a purpose than a warm and fuzzy guy, but I think he can learn to do both.”
Many voted for Emanuel because he has made many tough decisions and will have to make many more in the coming four years. Mendoza said that itself sets him apart from Garcia.
“I think that Mayor Emanuel has a lot of experience handling difficult budgets,” she said. “He was brought in by two of the most important presidents of our lifetime to deal specifically with financial matters, and in President Obama’s case, how to get out of the recession.”
The mayor, with a significant financial advantage, was able to define Garcia through a series of television advertisements criticizing the commissioner for his lack of a plan for the city’s fiscal woes. Garcia said he could not get a good glimpse of the city’s finances until thorough audits could be conducted. The two also disagreed upon education, crime and development.
The venue for the party was Plumber’s Union Hall in the West Loop. Labor had a strong presence, mingling with business-types and young professionals. Live music and an open bar contributed to an atmosphere that was much livelier than the campaign’s first party in February.
The crowd grew excited after Emanuel was declared the winner on the big screen television set up in the auditorium. Mendoza and Chicago’s First Lady, Amy Rule, spoke before the mayor, whose remarks lasted around eight minutes.
Despite his voice seemingly escaping him after months of furious campaigning, Emanuel proclaimed over a loud audience that “being Mayor of the city of Chicago is the greatest job I’ve ever had and the greatest job I’ll ever have.”
“The second city, they voted for a second term and a second chance,” Emanuel said.
The mayor will be sworn in next month.