Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will not seek a third term. Emanuel made the stunning announcement Tuesday morning in a hastily drawn together press conference on the 5th floor of City Hall.
“This has been the job of a lifetime but it is not a job for a lifetime,” Emanuel told reporters in remarks published by WGN.
The announcement comes just a day before the trial for former Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke is scheduled to begin. Van Dyke is charged with the first degree murder of Laquan McDonald, who he shot 16 times in 2014, which sparked national outrage, protests, and calls for Emanuel’s resignation.
The 2019 mayoral election has already begun heating up, with at least 12 candidates who’ve announced their intention to run. Emanuel had already raised a campaign war chest of more than $10 million.
Emanuel did not give any hints as to what his next move politically might be, instead saying he would meet with his cabinet and work to “do everything in our power to get it done and walk out the door hopefully leaving Chicago and Chicagoans in a stronger place.”
“I’ll always be here for the future of this city – not as mayor, but in the most important role anyone can play, as citizen,” he said. “I hope I’ll find ways to answer the call I’ve asked of every citizen: to do my part to stand up for the next generation, who deserve the doors of opportunity to be open and the spark of hope to light their eyes.”
Emanuel has been mayor of Chicago since 2011, and made plenty of controversial decisions during his 8 year tenure that earned him the ire of many Chicagoans. Emanuel closed half the city’s public mental health clinics in 2012, closed nearly 50 public schools in 2013, and has struggled with ongoing violence in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, as well as several high profile police shootings, including that of McDonald.
Former President Barack Obama lauded Emanuel’s tenure as mayor. “As a mayor, a congressman, and my first White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel has been a tireless and brilliant public servant,” he said in a statement.
“The announcement to establish universal pre-K in Chicago, on top of universal kindergarten, will give all our kids the best possible start,” added Obama. “And his implementation of debt-free community college will help prepare all our young people for the new economy. With record job growth and record employment over his terms in office, Chicago is better and stronger for his leadership, and I was a better President for his wise counsel at a particularly perilous time for our country.”
Community groups, organizations, and other critics that sparred with the mayor during his tenure also released statements celebrating Emanuel’s decision not to seek re-election.
“Emanuel turned Chicago into a city where Black and Brown people could not live safe and healthy lives, where working families could not afford child care or rent, where developers snatched up land made cheap by African-American displacement, and where parents starved themselves to keep their neighborhood high school open,” wrote United Working Families in a statement emailed to the press. “With Emanuel gone, we can and we will win a different future–a city for the many, not just the wealthy few.”
The Chicago Teachers Union, which has had a confrontational relationship with the mayor, particularly during the school closings and when members struck went on strike in 2012, took partial credit for Emanuel’s decision.
“We’re happy to hear that news, mainly for what it means for the future of education and schools in our city,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey in an early afternoon press conference. “Make no mistake – the members of this union won, we knocked out mayor 1 percent. This union takes credit for this mayor’s departure, not by ourselves, but on behalf of every parent that stood by us when we said you couldn’t close 50 schools in black and brown neighborhoods.”
Sharkey told reporters the union didn’t have a particular candidate in mind to support yet, but they were going to evaluate their options moving forward.
“We can do better. We can have people who are real champions for progressive revenue, public schools, and who have a commitment toward democracy,” he said.
When asked if he had anything positive to say about the mayor, Sharkey responded “I wish Emanuel and his family well but this guy’s record and tenure and schools has been a disaster.”
Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Emanuel’s most vocal critic in City Council, tweeted that “Today is a new day for our Chicago.”
I will do everything in my role as 35th Ward Alderman, and during my re-election campaign for 35th Ward Alderman, to ensure we are having a constructive and transformational dialogue about the future of our city. Today is a new day for our Chicago.
— Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa? (@CDRosa) September 4, 2018
A Facebook event titled “Celebrate The End of Rahm Emanuel’s Reign of Terror” created by Chicago Rising is scheduled for 5:30pm in Daley Plaza Monday evening.