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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel forced into April runoff election

February 25, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel failed to capture a majority of the vote Tuesday in his bid for a second term, an embarrassment for the former White House chief of staff who now faces a runoff.

The result exposed possible vulnerability for an incumbent who has widespread support from business leaders, national name recognition and millions of dollars in campaign funds. He participated in half a dozen debates and forums — often defending his more controversial decision on schools and violence — and received a last-minute boost with a hometown visit from President Barack Obama.

Still, he wasn’t able to capture the more than 50 percent necessary to avoid an April 7 runoff against Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a former alderman and state senator who got his start as an immigrant rights activist. With nearly all the votes counted, Emanuel had 45 percent, Garcia 34 percent, and the three other candidates divided the rest.

“We have come a long way, and we have a little bit further to go,” Emanuel told supporters. “This is the first step in a real important journey for our city.”

During the campaign, Garcia and the three other challengers played on discontentment in Chicago’s neighborhoods, where frustrations linger over Emanuel’s push to close dozens of schools. They also criticized Emanuel’s roughly $16 million fundraising operation — more than four times his challengers combined — and attention to downtown improvements.

Garcia, born in Mexico and raised in Chicago, billed himself as the “neighborhood guy.” He drew on his contacts with community organizers and support from the Chicago Teachers Unions.

“This city deserves a mayor who will put people first, not big money, special interests,” Garcia said. “I will be that mayor.”

Garcia and the other challengers — Alderman Bob Fioretti, businessman Willie Wilson and activist William Walls — also critiqued the mayor on his handling of violence.

Emanuel won his first mayoral race without a runoff in 2011 after former Mayor Richard Daley retired.

On the campaign trail, Emanuel said his first term saw some tough decisions and payoffs, including budgets that didn’t rely on property tax increases, drawing business to the city, getting a longer school day and raising the minimum wage.

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