Crusader Staff Report
Black leaders are searching to back a political candidate after Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday, September 4, announced he will not seek re-election. His decison ends a once promising political career that was eventually dogged by community distrust after a series of scandals rocked City Hall and for three years prompted numerous calls for him to resign.
Fresh from the long Labor Day weekend, Emanuel finally did that on Tuesday, at a hastily arranged press conference where he announced that he would not seek a third term as mayor. Chicago’s Black electorate propelled him to two terms in office, but that support eroded after allegations that Emanuel campaigned in the Black community while suppressing a video of Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year old Laquan McDonald 16 times.
Facing what was viewed as an uphill battle, Emanuel called it quits and backed down from a fight that sources say he knew he couldn’t win.
While Rahm gave up, Van Dyke continues his fight at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, where his murder trial got underway beginning with jury selection one day after the mayor’s stunning announcement.
Van Dyke remains the last figure standing from a scandal that claimed the careers of former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, and now Emanuel, an embattled politician who for nearly three years rode out a storm of criticism and calls for his resignation before the waves grew too much for him to go on.
The sex abuse scandal at Chicago Public Schools, and the shakeup at the Chicago Department of Water Management from allegations of racial discrimination were problems that ate away at trust in Rahm’s leadership, but the biggest blow was ongoing allegations and lawsuits of police misconduct with the Laquan McDonald case being Rahm’s albatross.
There are also questions about the future of some of the city’s Black aldermen, many of whom forged tight allegiances with Emanuel and have remained silent since the McDonald scandal.
Rahm never officially announced his candidacy for mayor, but he built a campaign war chest totaling more than $10 million that put him far ahead of those seeking to unseat him. Reports say Emanuel did not have enough energy to wage a tough campaign for a third term even though his aides were confident that he would win again. A press release with responses from former President Barack Obama and other leaders that was released to the media on Tuesday hinted that the mayor had time to plan his exit days before his announcement on Tuesday. With a large campaign war chest, Emanuel has not stated his future political ambitions.
With his decision to leave City Hall, Emanuel has dominated headlines, newscast and radio airwaves. With Emanuel out of the race, all eyes are on the surprised seven Black candidates who are among 12 contenders running in the mayoral elections on February 26, 2019.
“Today, the time has come to make another tough choice. As much as I love this job and will always love this city and its residents, I have decided not to seek re-election.
“This has been the job of a lifetime, but it is not a job for a lifetime. You hire us to get things done – and pass the torch when we’ve done our best to do what you hired us to do.
“I have approached public service the only way I know how for the last 23 years—giving 100 percent, 24 hours a day, seven days a week—for President Clinton, in Congress and in its leadership, as President Obama’s Chief of Staff and finally as your Mayor. For the last seven and a half years I’ve given my all every day and left everything on the field. This commitment has required significant sacrifice all around. Now, with our three kids in college, Amy and I have decided it is time for us to write a new chapter together.
At a press conference at the Rainbow PUSH headquarters, a coalition of Black, white and Latino community leaders stood with Reverend Jesse Jackson as he announced plans to build a coalition that would back one mayoral candidate in a way similar to the one that elected Harold Washington as Chicago’s first Black mayor.
Jackson said that plan will begin immediately and will vet all current candidates and those who have not yet announced plans to run for mayor. Jackson did not say whether the coalition plans to support a Black candidate for mayor, but he did say it was time for new leadership in Chicago.
“The political landscape in Chicago radically changed today,” Jackson said. “While we applaud his contributions to Chicago-pre K for all, a vibrant and beautiful downtown-perhaps now, with a fresh start, the city’s unmet needs and unfinished business can be addressed. The unfinished business of violence, the closing of 50 public schools, the shuttering of mental health clinics and even job and contract distribution.”