Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fought back a spirited challenge from Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia to win a second term as mayor of the Windy City on Tuesday.
With 70.4 percent of the precincts reporting on Tuesday night, Emanuel led with 56 percent of the votes, while Garcia trailed with 44 percent, according to The Chicago Tribune, which reported that Garcia had called Emanuel to concede.
The New York Times reported earlier in the day that about 142,000 residents had voted through the early voting process before polls opened on Tuesday. That number was 50,000 more voters than on Feb. 24 when Emanuel, Garcia and three other candidates faced off for the position.
Tuesday’s mayoral runoff was the first since the city changed its election process 20 years ago, and it was set in motion when Emanuel failed to win 50 percent of the votes in the crowded five-way race in February.
The mayoral contest was also watched nationally both because of Emanuel’s stature and because it pitted the centrist wing of the Democratic Party against its more progressive wing.
The February results were initially seen as a stunning blow to the hard-charging mayor, a former congressman and chief of staff to President Obama who won 55 percent of the votes in his first run for the helm of City Hall in 2011.
Aldermanic races were also held in 18 wards because those candidates failed to clear the 50 percent threshold in February.
Education was one of the central themes of Emanuel’s first term and it remained so in the run-up to the February contest and in the run-off. Lingering discontent over the closure of 50 schools, especially in heavily black and Latino neighborhoods, and the 2012 teachers’ union strike helped to spur support for Garcia.
Other major campaign issues included the city’s unfunded public employees’ pension obligations, addressing the downgrade of the city’s bond rating, and crime in some neighborhoods that some say have not benefitted from economic development as much as downtown Chicago during Emanuel’s tenure.
Garcia was also heavily backed by the Chicago’s Teachers Union and the Service Employees International Union. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis apparently encouraged Garcia to run in her stead against Emanuel after an illness forced her to abandon a mayoral run.
But Emanuel also had other strong union support, including from plumbers, pipefitters, painters, operating engineers and laborers, according to The New York Times.
Despite the hard-fought campaign, Emanuel was still expected to win. The last poll by Ogden & Fry, released days before the election, showed Emanuel defeating Garcia 51.3 percent to 33 percent, with 15 percent of voters still undecided, according to NBC Chicago.
Emanuel also had a major financial advantage. The mayor raised about $23 million for his reelection, while his opponent raised about $6 million, according to The Chicago Tribune.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.