CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel won re-election on Tuesday against challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in a hard-fought race to lead a city on the brink of financial crisis and plagued by violent crime.
Emanuel, 55, who has spent millions of dollars on television and radio ads in his bid for re-election, was leading by about 56 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Garcia with 86 percent of precincts reporting, according to the city’s Board of Election Commissioners. Turnout was 44 percent.
Over a six-week-long non-partisan race, the battle between Democrats Emanuel and Garcia became a symbol for a national divide between the party’s moderates and the less well-funded progressive wing.
Once an aide to former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Emanuel finished first among five candidates in February, but did not get the 50 percent of the vote needed to win the nonpartisan election outright. Garcia, 58, a Cook County commissioner and a former state senator and alderman, finished second.
Garcia said he had called Emanuel to concede.
Emanuel, who has been criticized for closing 50 public schools, as well as for violent crime and for what some call an arrogant manner, fought to rehabilitate himself with voters. He acknowledged in television ads that he can be abrasive, but said he fights for Chicago.
“Rahm may be a jerk but this is not a personality contest. It’s about who can lead this city forward,” said Alison Street, 46, a manager at a nonprofit organization, speaking at a polling place. “Rahm has a plan.”
Emanuel attacked Garcia for lacking ideas to deal with the city’s fiscal problems, which include a budget deficit expected to grow to $1.2 billion by next year due to public pension payments.
Kythzia Jurado, 40, a graphic designer and Garcia supporter, wiped away tears over his defeat.
“My main concern is that Rahm will continue to ignore the neighborhoods and focus on downtown,” Jurado said.
Another Garcia supporter, Marco Camacho, a public school teacher, said he is worried that the city will continue to see a depletion of school resources and that teachers will strike again, as they did in 2012.
But Dan Evola, 24, an Emanuel supporter and school custodian, said that the closed schools were bad and needed to be shut down.
Don Rose, a political consultant and adviser to Garcia, said Emanuel called upon Garcia for a budget plan, when he lacked one himself.
“Emanuel has to come up with a plan to get us out of the financial hole he helped put us in,” Rose said.
Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Additional reporting by Tracy Rucinski, P.J. Huffstutter, Suzannah Gonzales and Agnieszka Zielinska; Editing by Lisa Shumaker