By Bill Ruthhart
In a stunning decision, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday morning that he will no longer seek a third term in office, signaling the end to what has been a tumultuous – and at times transformative – eight years in office.
Emanuel's decision marks a dramatic political reversal, as for the better part of the last year he had said he would run for a third term. The mayor, long a prolific fundraiser, had already reeled in more than $10 million toward a bid for a third term.
But he also has been saddled with unpopularity, particularly among African-American voters, for his handling of the Laquan McDonald police shooting controversy, which led to a federal civil rights investigation of the police department, accusations of a City Hall cover-up and weeks of street protests that called for Emanuel's resignation.
The mayor, though, weathered the storm and has overseen widespread changes within the Police Department, from naming a new superintendent to overhauling training and instituting the use of body cameras while equipping all officers with Tasers. Emanuel also is in the midst of negotiations with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan over a consent decree that would place the authority of reforms in the Chicago Police Department with a federal judge.
Police issues aside, Emanuel also had drawn the ire of some voters for record property taxes he instituted to shore up the city's woefully underfunded police employee pensions and for closing 50 schools in 2013, a move he said was necessary because of significant under enrollment in schools on the city's South and West Sides. The Emanuel administration's ongoing struggle to tamp down recent spikes in gun violence – including a recent weekend in which 64 were shot, 12 of them fatally – also drew regular criticisms that he hadn't done enough to provide more job and economic opportunities on the South and West Sides.
Emanuel's recent rocky years at the city's helm drew an early – and larger – field of opposition than what has been typical of Chicago mayor's races of the past.
Twelve challengers already have announced their candidacies. They include former Police Board president and onetime federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, former Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, millionaire businessman Willie Wilson, activist Ja'Mal Green, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, Chicago principals association President Troy LaRaviere, tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin, policy consultant Amara Enyia, attorney John Kozlar and pharmaceutical technician and DePaul student Matthew Roney.
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