As Rahm Emanuel reaches out to Chicago, city gears up for a fight

Even as Chicagoans ponder life without a Mayor Daley, the city is buzzing with stories that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is preparing to run for the mayor's office. If he does join the crowded field, a political brawl is virtually certain.

Charles Dharapak/AP/File
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel listens from the back of the room as President Barack Obama answers questions during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, in this Sept. 10 file photo.

Could Chicago have a Mayor Emanuel?

Numerous sources are reporting that President Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is likely to leave Washington next month to mount a mayoral campaign.

Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley – who is about to break his father’s record as longest-serving mayor of the city, with 21 years in office – announced this month that he won’t seek reelection.

Mr. Emanuel has expressed interest in the job for some time, and has spent the last few weeks contacting Chicago friends and powerbrokers, including potential rivals. He also conducted a poll to gauge his name recognition and chances.

People Emanuel has put out feelers to include Alderman Tom Tunney, who says Emanuel told him that his “poll numbers are looking good.” He also met with Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. – who is also considering a run – last week. Rep. Jackson said that a match between the two would be a “heavyweight fight.”

Danny Davis, another Illinois congressman considering a bid, also came away from a meeting with Emanuel convinced he was going to run. Wednesday afternoon, Emanuel was planning to meet with Rep. Mike Quigley, yet another mayoral possibility.

(If you’re getting the impression that every congressman and alderman associated with the city is considering a run, that’s not far from the truth.)

While Emanuel has yet to confirm the rumors, speculation about his candidacy is going wild – including what the move would mean both for the mayor’s race and the West Wing.

CNN reports that Deputy Chief of Staff Pete Rouse is the favorite to take over his job in Washington, while other possible names include the deputy national security adviser, Tom Donilon, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, and Vice President Joe Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain.

Emanuel’s departure – combined with the exit of top economic adviser Lawrence Summers – could signal a different era for the administration.

In Chicago, meanwhile, everyone is busy pondering life without a Daley in charge – and anticipating the great political brawl that is likely to be the mayoral campaign between November’s filing deadline and February’s election. If no candidate gets a majority of the vote in February – a distinct possibility given the number likely to run – then a runoff between the top two vote-getters would be held in April.

In addition to Emanuel and Jackson, some of the biggest names considering a run include former Senator Carol Moseley Braun, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, and City Clerk Miguel Del Valle.

In a city that is often marked by racial politics, there’s no guarantee that Emanuel would win. But all Chicagoans are expecting an interesting spectacle.

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