In a surprising announcement, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he will not seek re-election to a third term, amid mounting criticisms over Emanuel’s failure to curb gun violence in the nation’s third-largest city.
“Today, the time has come to make another tough choice. As much as I love this job and will always love this city and its residents, I have decided not to seek re-election,” Emanuel told reporters on Sept. 4 at City Hall, with first lady Amy Rule by his side. Rule was visibly emotional, with tears in her eyes, during the announcement.
“This has been the job of a lifetime, but it is not a job for a lifetime,” he said.
“Today, I want to thank the people of Chicago for the opportunity to serve. It will fill my eyes with tears to leave a job I love, and, already, my heart is full with gratitude. We have worked together. We have celebrated progress together. We have grieved together. Amy and I made friendships across this city that will last a lifetime,” Emanuel said.
In the announcement, he didn’t reveal what he would be doing next, stating only that he would always be there for the future of the city, “not as mayor, but in the most important role anyone can play, as a citizen.” He appeared to choke back tears in one point during the conference.
Emanuel was first appointed mayor nearly eight years ago in 2011, and had previously served as White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama. Richard M. Daley, a former mayor who preceded Emanuel and held the office for 22 years, was the longest serving mayor in the city’s history.
“Whatever he chooses to do next, I know he’ll continue to make a positive difference, just as he has throughout his career in public service,” Obama said in a statement.
The mayor had begun campaigning for a third term but was suffering from low polling numbers. Internal polling numbers released in July found Emanuel had just a 32 percent approval rating, according to WGN.
Emmanuel’s role as mayor has drawn repeated criticisms from President Donald Trump, who has often tweeted about the high number of crimes in the city. Trump has previously written about sending the federal police to help curb the problem.
“If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!,” he wrote on Jan. 2017.
Emmanuel’s decision also comes as a high-profile murder trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was scheduled to begin this week. Van Dyke shot teen Laquan McDonald 16 times in October 2014 as he walked down a Southwest Side street while holding a small folding knife. In 2015, Emanuel fought against releasing the police video of the shooting, while it was still under investigation.
According to local media reports, about a dozen potential candidates are running ahead of February’s mayoral election. The likely field includes former Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, whom Emanuel fired following the release of the video showing the McDonald shooting. Other challengers include Paul Vallas, the former chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, and Lori Lightfoot, who served as president of the Chicago Police Board.
The campaign committee of Emanuel, who also served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, had $7.56 million on hand as of June 30, according to a quarterly filing with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Reuters contributed to this report.