Rahm Emanuel next Chicago mayor

By MARCELLA S. KREITER  |  Feb. 23, 2011 at 3:00 AM
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CHICAGO, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- With a salute to Richard M. Daley, former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel claimed victory in the Chicago mayoral race, moving the city into a new era.

With 99.49 percent of precincts reporting, Emanuel had 321,773 votes or 55.24 percent, followed by attorney Gery Chico with 139,635 votes or 23.97 percent, City Clerk Miguel del Valle with 54,081 votes or 9.28 percent, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun with 52,180 or 8.96 percent, Patricia Van Pelt Watkins with 9,561 votes or 1.64 percent and William Walls with 5,264 votes or 0.90 percent.

The 5 1/2-month campaign, triggered by Daley's surprise decision not to seek re-election, was a raucous affair, marked by efforts to declare Emanuel ineligible to run, racist and anti-Semitic remarks, and an Emanuel impersonator on Twitter whose tweets had a larger following than the real candidate.

The election was the city's first at-large contest for mayor and the first in six decades in which an incumbent was not running.

"Nobody has ever loved Chicago more or served it with more commitment," Emanuel said of Daley during the candidate's victory speech Tuesday night at Plumber's Union Hall where Emanuel supporters chanted, "Rahm, Rahm, Rahm." Daley "has earned a special place in our hearts and our history. … It's an impossible act to follow."

Daley, who has served as mayor for 22 years, was the city's longest-serving chief executive, surpassing the record set by his father, Richard J. Daley, who died in office in 1976. Between them, the Daleys held the mayor's office for 43 of the last 56 years.

True to form, the Emanuel impersonator on Twitter, who has 33,900 followers compared with the real Emanuel's 8,609 followers, unleashed an expletive-laced series of tweets claiming victory as well.

Emanuel pledged "to make a great city even greater." He called his election "a victory for all those who believe we can overcome all the old divisions that have held Chicago back. It is easy to find differences. We cannot allow them to become divisions. … We will move forward together as one city with one future. … I am more convinced than ever we can meet the great challenges before us."

Emanuel called for safer streets, better schools and more jobs.

"The plural pronoun 'we' is how we're going to meet the challenges of tomorrow," he said.

Emanuel, a former Chicago congressman, said he talked with President Barack Obama before coming down to speak and said the president sent his "love and affection for his hometown."

"I want to extend my congratulations to Rahm Emanuel on a well-deserved victory tonight," the president said in a statement issued a short time later. "As a Chicagoan and a friend, I couldn't be prouder. Rahm will be a terrific mayor for all the people of Chicago."

Chico, Daley's former chief of staff, pledged to work with Emanuel, who becomes the city's 46th mayor and its first Jewish mayor.

"I want with all my heart for Emanuel to be a success as mayor," Chico said as he conceded.

Braun, who never really was a factor in the race, said she gave the campaign her best.

"It's a very painful thing to lose an election," she said.

Slightly more than 41 percent of the city's voters turned out for Tuesday's balloting, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners said, calling the turnout disappointing.

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