Teacher-Backed Garcia Forces Runoff with Chicago Mayor Emanuel

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In a surprising result, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel did not receive at least 50% of the vote in the city’s mayoral election –due in part to teachers union efforts – and so he will be taking part in a run-off against the second place finisher, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, this April.

The result came as a shock after last week’s visit from President Barack Obama, whom Emanuel had served as Chief of Staff.

After 98% of the precincts reported, unofficial results show Emanuel came in with 45.4% of the vote, and Garcia had 33.9%.  Prior to the election, polls had shown Emanuel close to 50% and Garcia at around 20%.

Despite these results, Emanuel continued to portray optimism and patience.

“Tomorrow morning I will be seeing you at the L stops,” said Emanuel “We will get back out there talking to our friends and families and neighbors as they make a critical choice about who has the strength, who has the leadership, who has the ideas to move this great city forward.”

While Emanuel won the mayoral seat outright in the 2011 election, the controversial closings of 50 public schools due to low enrollment in order to save money angered parents and activists.  In addition, the continuation of high crime has created the first run-off since nonpartisan elections were first held in the city in 1995.  Voters are also unhappy with his standoff with teachers during their strike in 2012 over the school closures.

“We need to upgrade our communities by building more and better schools,” said Tracy McGrady, a college student and part-time construction worker. “Instead, Rahm is closing them.”

Garcia continues to claim that Emanuel is paying more attention to the upper class and downtown area in the city than the poor and outside communities.  He is expected to continue with this campaign during the run-off to gain the support of voters who did not vote for him, but who also did not vote for Emanuel.

The Chicago Teachers Union fully supports Garcia and gave him an edge by recording an endorsement of him the week after he announced his bid for mayor.

Emanuel claimed his moves were in response to reining in the city’s budget deficit, which is expected to reach $1.2 billion by next year due to increasing public pensions.

Despite devoting almost half of his $16 million in campaign funds on 16 different television ads amounting to over 4,600 TV spots, it was not enough to win the 50% or more support that the mayor needed to keep his role.

His goal had been to show his opponents as being incapable of dealing with the financial issues occurring throughout the city, although he himself did not offer any solutions.

Emanuel said that during his term he has raised minimum wage, expanded the kindergarten system in the city to be full-day, and also improved upon the city’s rapid transit system.