02/22/2011 09:20 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Rahm Emanuel Wins Chicago Mayor's Race: Outright Victory Means No Runoff

CHICAGO -- Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor of Chicago on Tuesday, easily overwhelming five rivals to take the helm of the nation's third-largest city as it prepares to chart a new course without the retiring Richard M. Daley.

Emanuel trounced all opponents with 55 percent of the vote - a margin that allowed him to avoid an April runoff. He needed more than 50 percent to win outright.

It was the city's first mayoral race in more than 60 years without an incumbent on the ballot and the first in more than two decades without Daley among the candidates. Daley and his father have led Chicago for more than 43 out of the last 56 years.

Emanuel called the victory "humbling" and said the outgoing mayor had "earned a special place in our hearts and our history."

But he added: "We have not won anything until a kid can go to school thinking of their studies and not their safety. Until the parent of that child is thinking about their work and not where they are going to find work, we have not won anything."

Reginald Bachus, the 51-year-old pastor of a West Side church who voted for Emanuel, said the next four years will be "a very critical time for Chicago.

"We really need a mayor who has vision. It's my personal opinion everyone else would have been a manager, and I think Rahm has vision," Bachus said.

The other major candidates - former Chicago schools president Gery Chico, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and City Clerk Miguel del Valle - had hoped to force a runoff that would have extended the campaign for six more weeks. But they were no match for Emanuel's momentum and money.

Chico had 25 percent of the vote compared with 9 percent for both del Valle and Braun. Two other lesser-known candidates each got about 1 percent.

Emanuel will replace outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley, who has held the office for over twenty years. Daley up-ended the Chicago political universe on September 7 of last year by announcing that he wouldn't run for re-election. At the time, he described it as "a personal decision, no more, no less" -- his wife Maggie has been battling cancer for years, and at age 68, he's no spring chicken himself.

But many speculated that his spectacular failure to win the 2016 Olympics for Chicago, coupled with the debacle surrounding his lease of the city's parking meters and the generally catastrophic state of city finances, led him to believe his political muscle was running out.

Meanwhile, Emanuel had turned heads earlier in the year by suggesting that he'd some day be interested in running for mayor of Chicago, though he clarified that he'd never run against his good friend Daley. Almost immediately after the mayor's announced retirement, speculation began to swirl around Emanuel, overshadowing almost every local development in the race even before he declared his candidacy.

When he finally did announce, with a supportive send-off from President Obama, he had to surmount a legal challenge to his claims of residency in Chicago while working in D.C. for the White House. Objectors to his candidacy argued that he didn't meet the legal requirement to reside in the city for a year prior to running for mayor; his campaign argued that residency covers service to the president, and that he clearly planned to move back to the city. After several lower court rulings in his favor, Emanuel lost a split decision in the Appellate Court, prompting national speculation that he'd be removed from the ballot. But the Illinois Supreme Court promptly reversed that ruling, issuing a scathing opinion that called the Appellate Court's decision "fundamentally flawed."

After the ruling in his favor, Emanuel also faced a crowded field: Gery Chico, a Daley associate with powerful backers in business and among unions; Carol Moseley Braun, the "consensus" black candidate as chosen by a group of political and religious leaders in the African-American community; and Miguel del Valle, the white-knight city clerk backed by a grassroots progressive movement.

Still, none could overcome Emanuel's massive fundraising advantage (accrued largely before January 1st, when campaign-finance limits took effect, and largely from out-of-town sources), his superior media campaign, and his star power, which many Chicagoans saw as a way to help put the city in the national and international spotlight. He had been polling significantly ahead of all challengers throughout the race; the only unanswered question was whether he would break the 50 percent threshold on Election Day. He did.

The outright win for Emanuel is meaningful for a number of reasons. Aside from his ability to claim a mandate and start making plans for the beginning of his term, he can also start lobbying in the many aldermanic races that are headed to run-offs, to craft a City Council more amenable to his agenda.

"Thank you, Chicago, for this humbling victory," Emanuel said Tuesday night. "You sure know how to make a guy feel at home."

02/23/2011 10:52 AM EST

Rahm's Challenges

So, we have a new mayor--but we also have a lot of problems.

"Not since the Great Depression have the finances of the city been this precarious," said Dominic Pacyga, a historian and author of "Chicago: A Biography." The city's next budget deficit could again exceed $500 million, mostly the result of reduced tax revenue from the recession, and could reach $1 billion if the city properly funds its pension system.

Emanuel, who takes office May 16, also faces a fractious political landscape.

He'll have to find new leadership for the struggling public school system, as two top interim executives plan to leave. He'll also need a new police chief, having said he would not renew Police Superintendent Jody Weis' contract. The department is suffering from low morale and staffing estimated at 1,000 officers below previous levels.

Read more about Rahm's challenges here.

02/23/2011 2:03 AM EST

Rahm Emanuel's Task: The Reinvention of the Great American City

James Warren:

As Rahm Emanuel basked in election night glory late Tuesday, the mayor-elect of Chicago didn't need to reprise Robert Redford's deer-in-the-headlights line in "The Candidate," when he turns to his strategist upon winning a U.S. Senate seat and asks, "What do we do now?"

Read more here.

02/23/2011 12:00 AM EST

Aldermanic Round-Up: Fourteen Races Still TBD

The City Council was sure to see some serious upheaval this election cycle, and the competitiveness of the fights for alderman is showing in tonight’s results: fifteen of the 50 wards appear set to head to runoffs on April 5.

There are still around fifty precincts still waiting to report around the city, but races around Chicago are yet to be determined. And many incumbent aldermen will be facing heated competition in those races six weeks from now.

Read about the various races that will be heading to runoffs here.

02/22/2011 11:40 PM EST

@ mattctweets : As my friend, @jlizak just said, Half of Chicago today blew off the right that the entire Mid East is fighting for. Way to go. #mayor11

02/22/2011 11:30 PM EST

Why Rahm Won

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times lists the ten reasons Rahm won here. A sample:

1. Millions of dollars: Emanuel overwhelmed his rivals from the start with his formidable fund-raising ability. He took advantage of Illinois laws that allowed six-figure donations until Dec. 31.

2. He had a professional campaign, sprung almost full born from the day he started running: press, policy, fund-raising, you name it.

3. A potentially strong rival, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart decided not to run.

02/22/2011 10:50 PM EST

President Obama Congratulates Rahm

Statement of the President on the Election of Rahm Emanuel:

"I want to extend my congratulations to Rahm Emanuel on a well-deserved victory tonight. As a Chicagoan and a friend, I couldn't be prouder. Rahm will be a terrific mayor for all the people of Chicago."

02/22/2011 10:16 PM EST

Rahm Emanuel Speaks

"All I can say is, you sure know how to make a guy feel at home," he leads off.

"Tonight, we are moving forward in the only way we truly can: as one city, with one future." He goes on to congratulate his opponents and their supporters, and says he "looks forward to drawing on their insights, their energy and their experiences" in the days and years to come. "We have not won anything" until children can go to school safely, and workers can

"The plural pronoun 'we' is how we're going to win the future," he says, in a sort of clunky line. He's stumbling here and there, but clearly happy.

"I just spoke with Mayor Daley," he says, and is then interrupted by applause. Suddenly, he points to someone in the crowd, and with a big grin on his face, says, "How are ya?" This, apparently, is Lola Parker, who "has been my date every Saturday night while Amy and the kids are doing homework." Nothing scandalous here: he's talking about watching her son Jabari Parker star in Simeon High School basketball games.

"Rich Daley is an impossible act to follow," he says. In so many ways, yes.

Rahm chokes up a bit when thanking his wife, and then goes on to thank a long list of leaders, politicians, and others who have supported his campaign.

"I've also just talked to President Obama, who sends you his love and affection for his home town." Loud applause.

"If I can take a personal moment, during this campaign I've been to over 110 El stops." Some heckling. It's known as a cold city, but even on the coldest days, "because of the people of Chicago, this is the warmest place in America."

"I want to thank you, and tomorrow morning, I'm gonna see you on that El stop. Thank you and God bless you."

02/22/2011 9:54 PM EST

@ Suntimes : RT @natashakorecki Crowd already deafening @RahmEmanuel's HQ and he's yet to take stage. AP declaring him Chicago Mayor.

02/22/2011 9:52 PM EST

Gery Chico Concedes

"We've elected a mayor tonight," Chico told supporters. "I want with all of my heart for Rahm Emanuel to be successful as mayor. We need that, ladies and gentlemen.”

02/22/2011 9:51 PM EST

Miguel del Valle Concedes

"Well, we're still poor," del Valle says. "But we still have a lot to offer."