January 31, 2011 / 6:34 PM / 7 years ago

Early voting starts in Chicago as Emanuel wins Sun-Times nod

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Early voting started on Monday in Chicago’s mayoral race with former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, far ahead in a recent poll, gaining the endorsement of one of the city’s newspapers.

Emanuel, who had a 2-1 lead over his closest competitor in a recent Chicago Tribune poll, got the endorsement of the Chicago Sun-Times. In Monday’s paper, an editorial said Emanuel has the vision, policies, management experience, political sophistication and “sheer force of personality to be a powerfully effective mayor.”

“He gets big things done,” the paper said.

Early voting is not expected to be as busy as it was when President Barack Obama was running for president. But it should be busier than the last mayoral election four years ago, said spokesman Jim Allen at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

The election, set for February 22, is the most closely watched mayoral contest in Chicago in years. Mayor Richard M. Daley, the son of famed Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, is retiring after 22 years in office.

Emanuel’s closest contender for the office is former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, who stirred up controversy on Sunday when she accused another candidate of being a crack addict.

Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins, a community activist who has 1 percent support compared to Braun’s 21 percent, according to the Tribune poll, accused Braun at a candidate forum of not being active in the community in recent years.

Braun retorted that Van Pelt-Watkins didn’t know where Braun was “because you were strung out on crack.”

Van Pelt-Watkins has told local media outlets that she had never used crack cocaine, and has been sober for more than 25 years. On Monday, she was demanding an apology from Braun.

If one candidate does not get more than 50 percent of the vote February 22, there will be a run-off election in April. Emanuel drew 44 percent support in the Tribune poll published on January 20.

Writing by Mary Wisniewski, Editing by Peter Bohan

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