Even though Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is an incumbent who had the endorsement of the president of the United States, Tuesday's election results show that the mayor with one of the country's most recognizable names could indeed be "beatable," a Chicago Tribune editorial said Wednesday.
The city's mayoral election is heading into its first runoff
race since 1995 after Emanuel, 55 and a one-time chief of staff for President Barack Obama, failed to get more than 50 percent of the vote.
In the April 7 runoff, he will compete against his second-place challenger, Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia. The race will pit Emanuel against a "likable survivor" in Garcia, the Tribune reports, and six weeks could give forces even more time to unify against the mayor, who is seeking his second term in office.
Emanuel received millions of dollars from donors that included Hollywood directors, leaving him with $6 million in his war chest as 2014 came to an end, even after he spent $4.7 million in the fourth quarter alone in an effort to defeat Garcia and three other challengers, according to Reuters.
"Emanuel should have defeated this weak field easily," said the Tribune's editorial. "That he didn't is a profound, and personal, repudiation."
Part of the issue, the Tribune's editorial board conceded, was that Emanuel made "tough and necessary decisions," including when the school board he appointed closed dozens of schools.
But the mayor has also not been connecting well with Chicago's voters, the editorial said.
The former Obama official is a national celebrity, and that is making Chicagoans think that he's focusing his efforts elsewhere, not on the city, it said, resulting in a "disconnect" with voters.
But even if Emanuel ultimately pulls through, the city's debts will still be waiting for him, as schools and local government do not have the money to keep the city's service levels as they are, and the mayor's challengers were wary about making attacks on the city's debt.
"Wary, most likely, because not one of them was prepared to volunteer a real solution," said the Tribune editorial.
Instead, they only gave vague answers about a looming $300 million deficit coming in next year's city budget, as well as an upcoming $550 million balloon payment for the police and fire pension funds, and almost $30 billion in unfunded obligations due to pension funds for teachers and city workers.
Garcia attracted the support of the Chicago Teachers Union in his campaign, which also likely drew votes away from Emanuel.
In his platform, Garcia, a former state senator and alderman, complained that Emanuel was more focused on Chicago's upper class and the downtown area than on the city's poorer and outlying areas, reports Reuters.
Further, in a television ad, Garcia slammed Emanuel's ability to lure corporations to Chicago by saying the incentive packages and tax breaks his administration offered gave large companies the benefits that were being taken away from city operations.
But Garcia will have to address the city's financial crisis with definite answers about where the money will come from if he is to pull out a win over Emanuel, the editorial said.
But the mayor is in the same bind, the Tribune said. This time around, Emanuel won't be able to rely on his resume, like he did in the 2011 election for his first term, but must continue the tough work he's already done.
"He has proven to be a results-driven mayor," said the Tribune, which endorsed his re-election campaign.
However, the editorial said, Chicago voters showed Tuesday that they may not want to hear how Emanuel is "peddling tough love" while trying to salvage the city's finances and operations.
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