After seven years in office, widely hated Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today that he won’t seek reelection. “As much as I love this job and will always love this city and its residents, I’ve decided not to seek re-election,” he said at a press conference. “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,” he said.
Emanuel became mayor after his time as White House Chief of Staff under Obama from 2008 to 2010. He was seen as a major force pulling the administration towards the center, and attempted to quash the policy that would become Obamacare.
Emanuel’s time as mayor has been disastrous. Early on in his tenure, he was criticized by Chicago’s black and brown residents for shuttering 50 public schools in mostly minority areas. By 2015, he had an approval rating of only 35 percent.
From there, things only got worse. The mayor’s dealings with victims of police shootings is a particular stain on his legacy. His administration’s decision to withhold footage of Laquan McDonald’s shooting by police officers spurred a federal investigation into the Chicago Police Department. After that incident, and the revelations of an attempted cover up, Emanuel’s approval rating sank to a pathetic 15 percent.
When Emanuel announced he would run for reelection last October, the decision was a shock to many. Why would someone so unpopular continue to inflict himself on a city that hates him? Now, nearly a year later, he’s finally calling it quits.
Emanuel’s decision leaves the race for mayor wide open. There are currently twelve candidates running, and it’s possible that more will join now that Emanuel is out. The election will be in February of 2019, so there isn’t much time to campaign. Emanuel’s absence leaves a void for big donors, who largely still supported the mayor despite his unpopularity. Whoever they choose to back will be the most likely to replace him.