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Chicago mayor: If not Rahm Emanuel, then who?

Rahm Emanuel is the most prominent name being batted around to replace outgoing Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Here are six more potential contenders.

By Staff writer / September 8, 2010

In this April 27 photo, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel laughs while participating in the annual Richard J. Daley Global Cities Forum in Chicago.

M. Spencer Green/AP/File

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Chicago

The announcement by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley Tuesday that he will not seek a seventh term is presenting the city a situation it has not experienced in over 20 years: a free-for-all election Feb. 22 with as many as a dozen candidates expected to seek the top seat at city hall.

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Mayor Daley has reigned relatively without challenge since he took office in 1989, earning him the nicknames “Mayor For Life” and “King Richard.” But with his public approval ratings at an all-time low, a parking meter deal that continues to earn public scorn, his administration pocked with many high-profile corruption scandals, and the city saddled with a $654.7 million budget shortfall, Daley is offering up the keys to a kingdom that, in its current state, will present any candidate a significant challenge to reform.

The best-known contender is White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel who, on a talk show earlier this year, let slip his interest in running for the Chicago mayor’s office should Daley choose not to continue. While he certainly has the war chest to run – $1 million according to the Chicago Sun-Times – his viability as a candidate remains in doubt. Mr. Emanuel may be popular inside the Beltway, but in Chicago he is seen as brash and, having grown up in the city’s posh North Shore suburbs, an opportunist.

Larry Bennett, who teaches political science at DePaul University in Chicago, says an Emanuel win “would be a long shot” and, as a candidate, he “could be easily attacked” as someone who was not a consensus builder and would not necessarily understand the nuances of Chicago’s tribal political culture.

To Bernard Stone, a longtime Chicago alderman who represents the city’s 50th Ward on the far North Side, Emanuel “doesn’t have the experience and the know-how.” “Rahm is a strong arm … and I am not looking for a strong-arm mayor,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.

US Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D) is another national figure that publicly made it clear he intended to run for the mayor’s office, but his chances were diminished this summer when it became public in the federal trial of impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich that he met with Mr. Blagojevich’s representatives to discuss being awarded the US Senate seat previously held by President Obama.

That revelation did not prevent Mr. Jackson’s wife, the Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, from telling NBC Wednesday that she and her husband were both “considering” a run for Daley’s former seat. “My husband and I will sit down and decide if either of us will run,” she said.

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