Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel failed to capture a majority of the vote in Tuesday's municipal election, forcing the former White House chief of staff into a runoff this spring.
The result exposed possible vulnerability for an incumbent mayor of the third-largest city in the United States. Emanuel has widespread support from business leaders, national name recognition and millions of dollars in his campaign fund. He participated in half a dozen debates and forums and received a last-minute boost from President Barack Obama.
But he wasn't able to capture the more than 50 percent necessary to avoid an April runoff against Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, who finished far below Emanuel's vote total but far above the other three challengers.
Emanuel's controversial decisions to close dozens of public schools and continued high crime were part of what helped send the Chicago mayoral election into its first runoff since the city started holding nonpartisan elections in 1995.
And Garcia campaigned saying that Emanuel paid more attention to the city's upper class and downtown than to the poor and communities outside the commercial center.
"I'm an immigrant, so I like that he supports immigrants and he's going to raise the minimum salary," said Alexis Barrios, 40, an Emanuel supporter who arrived from Guatamala 23 years ago. Barrios, a bartender, was serving drinks at an Emanuel campaign event as the mayor’s supporters regrouped.
"I feel very excited. He's supporting schools," said Jose Mendiola, 21, of Emanuel.
Emanuel's challengers — Garcia, Alderman Bob Fioretti, businessman Willie Wilson and perennial candidate William Walls — had hoped to capitalize on discontent with Emanuel's handling of schools and crime.
Garcia, 58, a progressive Democrat and former state lawmaker, was hugely outspent by Emanuel, who put $7 million into television ads, including one featuring a hug from Obama.
Garcia had the support of the powerful Chicago Teachers Union, whose president, Karen Lewis, had planned to run against Emanuel but was sidelined by a brain tumor. He enjoyed support from other unions and neighborhood groups.
On the campaign trail, Emanuel said his first term saw some tough decisions and payoffs, including budgets that didn't rely on property tax increases, drawing business to the city, getting a longer school day and raising the minimum wage.
But his critics pointed to some of more tumultuous parts of his time in office, including in 2012 the city's first teachers' strike in 25 years. In 2013 he pushed for the closure of dozens of schools to save money, which angered parents and activists throughout the city's neighborhoods.
Wire services with additional reporting by Wilson Dizard in Chicago
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