Six weeks after failing to secure enough votes to avoid the city’s first-ever mayoral runoff, Mayor Rahm Emanuel won a second term Tuesday, defeating his challenger, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, with 56 percent of the vote.
The polls closed at 7 p.m., and Garcia called Emanuel just after 8 p.m. to concede and congratulate him.
Emanuel supporters who had gathered for an election party at the Chicago Journeyman Plumbers Union Hall cheered and chanted “four more years” as Emanuel took the stage.
“I understand that the challenges we face will require me to approach them differently,” Emanuel said during his victory speech. “We are the city that works, and that means it has to work for everyone in every neighborhood in every part of the city of Chicago.”
Emanuel thanked Garcia and spoke about the numerous issues raised during the campaign, including school closings, charter schools, the red light camera program and pension reform.
Josh Mirowski, a member of Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union Local 130, said Emanuel has done a lot for people in his line of work and has offered them a great deal of support.
“He really does a lot for the small people, the little guy,” Mirowski said.
Robert Ewing, another union plumber, said the mayor has supported plumbers over the past four years, and he would like to continue on the same path. He said he is looking forward to seeing Chicago progress even more.
Ewing said he didn’t feel the same support from Garcia.
“Chuy mentioned something about how infrastructure support wasn’t necessary,” Ewing said. “I just think otherwise.”
Megan Burnek attended Emanuel’s party along with other members of Unite Here Local 1, which represents more than 15,000 hospitality workers in Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana that work in places ranging from school cafeterias to stadiums.
Unite Here endorsed Emanuel and ran an advertising campaign the union called “Rahm Love.”
Burnek said Emanuel is the right mayor for Chicago.
“He gets the job done,” Burnek said. “He’s serious about decision-making.”
Bert McGee, also a member of Unite Here Local 1, said she has personally seen the outcome of the mayor’s efforts.
“In the past four years, wages have grown tremendously,” McGee said. “We are supporting our families and children.”
Both women said they saw their lives dramatically improve under the mayor and fully supported Emanuel’s campaign for another term.
Garcia’s responses to questions about the city’s budget deficit played a role in some voters’ decision.
When he met Emanuel in a one-on-one TV debate in March, Garcia evaded questions about the budget, saying if elected, he would appoint a commission to study solutions.
With the city facing $20 billion in unfunded pension obligations, and Chicago Public Schools alone accounting for another $1.1 billion in deficits, budget handling was sure to be an important issue.
Emanuel’s TV commercials portrayed him as an experienced financial planner who brought thousands of jobs to Chicago.
But Garcia said Emanuel has done a poor job with both city finances and violent crime. He also criticized the infamous red-light cameras, which have raised millions of dollars for the city, but are despised by Chicago drivers.
Garcia touted a populist message, consistently referring to Emanuel as “Mayor 1%” and calling him a tool of the wealthy.
Garcia pointed to Emanuel’s campaign and political action committee, which raised more than $30 million; most of which came from about 100 contributors. Garcia’s campaign raised only about $6 million.
But Garcia never answered questions on how he would address the city’s fiscal crisis or pay for campaign promises to hire an additional 1,000 police officers and end the use of red-light cameras.
Garcia won endorsements from liberal politicians such as former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent. Feminist Gloria Steinem and philosopher Cornel West also endorsed Garcia.
Those endorsements were not enough to overcome Emanuel’s fundraising, his support from President Barack Obama and endorsements from both Chicago’s major newspapers.