Who might replace Rahm Emanuel as Democratic mayor of Chicago?
No doubt you've heard thel bombshell dropped on Chicago politics yesterday when Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he would not seek another term.
Coincidentally, Emanuel made his announcement on the first day of the murder trial of former Chicago policeman Jason Van Dyke, whose videotaped killing of an unarmed black teenager was the impetus for court-ordered police reforms and much racial unrest in the city.
It should be noted that Emanuel could have won re-nomination in the Democratic primary. It would have been a tough, emotional, bloody battle against at least five other candidates, but he would have prevailed in the end. And he would have emerged severely weakened, heading into a third term with the city facing a financial and fiscal crisis and a simmering racial conflict that threatens to reignite.
Then there's the growing power of the radical left in Chicago, as minority communities have been radicalized by violence in the streets and several high-profile police killings. The radicals are expected to pick up six to eight seats on the city council and were prepared to make Emanuel's life miserable.
Longtime ally and confidant David Axelrod said the decision was gut-wrenching for Emanuel, a sharp-elbowed pol who carved out a role on the national stage and wasn't built to back down from a tough challenge.
"He agonized over it. He didn't make a decision until the last week and finally had to be honest with himself about whether it was good for him and good for the city to sign up for another four years. It's a tough decision to make," Axelrod said in an interview. "I admire him for it. No one has ever doubted his energy or ambition for himself or the city. It was a thoughtful decision on his part to conclude this is the right time."
In the end, Emanuel's tattered reputation would have suffered even more in a third term. The "police reforms" are likely to lead to more crime and more violence. There is a pension crisis with city employee unions that is likely to get worse. Taxes will have to be raised. Who can blame Emanuel for declining to serve under these circumstances?
In fact, you'd have to be nuts to want the job. So, of course, at least ten people are lining up to take it.
Will Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza or Attorney General Lisa Madigan clear the field? They're both women who have won statewide campaigns, are longtime Chicagoans and are popular with city voters. Both have been officially mum so far.
There's also Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who decided against a City Hall run earlier this year. Might she change her mind now that the seat is vacant and she is the new Cook County Democratic chairman? Sources said she is seriously mulling the race.
The time could be right for another female mayor. The city's only had one.
Or the time could be right for another black mayor, or the first Hispanic mayor. There are many to choose from:
The field now includes former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, community activist Ja'Mal Green, former CPS principal Troy LaRaviere, policy consultant Amara Enyia, Southwest Side attorney Jerry Joyce, businessman Willie Wilson and tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin.
And the list of those considering a bid will no doubt grow in the coming days. Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) are all considering runs.
Other names thrown into the political rumor mill shortly after the announcement included former city and state education board president Gery Chico, former Obama chief of staff and Clinton Commerce Secretary Bill Daley and Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia.
The list goes on and on. Emanuel must be wondering why they want this crummy job.
Expectations for the next mayor are going to be so low that success will be more than possible. And the high-profile mayor's job could lead to statewide office or – dare I say – national ambitions?
Of those currently in the race, Vallas has raised the most money – nearly half a million dollars. But that's a drop in the bucket. This will be the most expensive mayor's race in U.S. history with perhaps 15 candidates in the running.
We can expect the radical left to flex its muscles and propel one of its own into the runoff next spring. At that point, anything can happen – including the election of someone not even mentioned above.
If the stakes weren't so high and the situation in the city so serious, the next eight months in Chicago would be wildly entertaining.