RAHM ON THE ROPES: Chicago Mayoral Race Heads To Runoff

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is floundering in his bid to win a second term. Emanuel failed to secure 50 percent of the mayoral vote on Tuesday. Thus, under Second City law, he must now face off against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a relatively obscure upstart who finished second and has given the mayor a surprising and tough battle.

With 98 percent of the votes counted, Emanuel received the most votes among the handful of candidates for mayor, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Emanuel led late Tuesday night with 45.4 percent of the total vote. Garcia, a Cook County commissioner, was second with 33.9 percent. Entrepreneur Willie Wilson finished third with 10.6 percent. Bringing up the rear were alderman Bob Fioretti (7.4 percent) and perennial candidate William “Dock” Walls (2.8 percent).

For many people who hate Emanuel — and that’s a whole lot of people — Tuesday’s result is obviously good news. At the same time, the result isn’t necessarily good news for politically conservative Rahm haters because Garcia makes the mayor look like some courageous combination of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

Garcia, a Mexican-born, impressively mustachioed Democrat, stands for a minimum wage $15 per hour, increased low-income housing and expanded services and protections for immigrants.

He is claiming the mantle of victory after Tuesday night’s second-place triumph.

“They wrote us off … said we didn’t have a chance … said we didn’t have any money … while they spent millions attacking us,” Garcia said in a buoyant speech Tuesday night, according to the Chicago Teachers Union website.

Specifically, as he named no fewer than a dozen special interests, Garcia attacked “all those big corporations and special interests who’ve spent all those millions” in his speech.

“Today, the rest of us had something to say … the bus drivers … train operators … police officers and emergency responders … students … health-care workers … retirees, block club leaders … community organizers … teachers … working moms and working dads … the people who make this great city great … we have something to say,” Garcia declared.

“We want a change.”

Garcia has also consistently and positively evoked the administration of Harold Washington, Chicago mayor from 1983 to 1987.

Emanuel, who has had a decided financial advantage and has spent millions on television advertising, said he is also optimistic.

“We have come a long way and we have a little bit further to go. This is the first step in a real important journey in our city,” Emanuel told his own supporters, according to the Tribune. “For those who voted for someone else, I hope to earn your confidence and your support in the weeks to come.”

Emanuel won 35 out of 50 city wards. However, some of the heavily Hispanic wards Garcia won were electoral bloodbaths for the mayor.

In August, Emanuel’s perpetually sagging voter approval rating hit 35 percent and showed that he would lose a matchup against Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis.

It was going to be a matchup for the ages. Sick of getting beaten like a drum at every political turn, Lewis had indicated that she was seriously mulling a bid to take Emanuel’s job. She used her union’s considerable local power to raise $2 million and to register tens of thousands of voters.

Lewis even headed down to Mexico for surgery to reduce her obesity about a year ago. (RELATED: Fresh Off WEIGHT REDUCTION SURGERY IN MEXICO, Karen Lewis May Run Against Mayor Rahm)

That race wasn’t to be, though, as Lewis became ill and dropped out of mayoral politics.

Lewis has thrown her considerable political weight behind Garcia. He owes his new political fortune largely to her.

In Garcia, Emanuel will now have to face a single adversary in the election. The mayor will no longer be able to dismiss his opponents as a group of small fries. At the same time, Emanuel will be able to focus like a laser beam on Garcia’s radical politics and inexperience.

The runoff election scheduled for April will be the first runoff mayoral in Chicago history.

Turnout on Tuesday was around 35 percent, nearly a record low for city voting.

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