For weeks now polls had former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as the front-runner.

For weeks now polls had former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as the front-runner.

So it came as no surprise Tuesday when he was overwhelmingly elected the next mayor of Chicago.

With 98 percent of the precincts counted at Defender press time, Emanuel had 55 percent,

which was more than enough to win. To win a candidate needed 50 percent plus one vote. Emanuel will be sworn into office May 16.

“What makes this victory so gratifying is that we won with votes from all across the city,” Emanuel said during his victory speech. “I am determined with your help to meet our challenges head on and to make our city even greater.”

The other five mayoral candidates trailed Emanuel and never came close to forcing a runoff, which would have taken place April 5.

According to the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners, the closest candidate was Gery Chico, who finished second with 24 percent. Third place went to Miguel del Valle with 9.3 percent; Carol Moseley Braun finished fourth with 8.8 percent; followed by Patricia Van Pelt Watkins 1.6, and William Walls, who finished last, with 0.89 percent.

Celebrating on the West Side at the Plumbers, Local 130 headquarters Emanuel thanked Mayor Richard M. Daley and President Barack Obama, who he spoke to Tuesday night.

“I have spoken to both Mayor Daley and President Obama this evening,” he said. “This city bears his (Daley) imprint and tonight we thank him for a lifetime of service. He is an impossible act to follow.”

In a written statement, President Obama praised Emanuel for his victory and wished him well.

“I want to extend my congratulations to Rahm Emanuel on a well-deserved victory tonight.  As a Chicagoan and a friend, I couldn’t be prouder,” Obama said. “Rahm will be a terrific mayor for all the people of Chicago.”

Joining Emanuel on stage was Chicago firefighter Annette Holt, who co-chaired his campaign.

“I knew when he announced his candidacy that he would be my next mayor,” she said.

Also joining the mayor-elect was Andre Cowling, principal of Collins Academy High School on the West Side. Cowling, who has been featured in TV ads for Emanuel, said he supported him because he believes he can help improve public education.

“He is the best candidate for this job. He has insight for our children and it is that insight I am counting on to improve graduation rates and to make our schools safer,” Cowling told the Defender. “He is someone who understands education and business.”

One candidate said he is done running for office.

“This was it for me,” Walls said. “I may go into practicing law, I’m not sure but I know whatever I do next it will not involve politics.”

He added that the one regret he had was not seeking to be the ‘Black consensus’ candidate as Braun had sought but ultimately lost to U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-7th Dist., who later withdrew his candidacy.

For Watkins, she has no regrets and has not ruled out a future in politics, but it won’t be running for alderman or the state legislature.

“I’m not going to join a weak body of people waiting on the mayor to tell them what to do or waiting on something in Springfield,” she said. “My alderman and my state rep have nothing to worry about from me. I can get more done organizing on the streets.”

For the past two years Emanuel, a former North Side congressman, worked in Washington, D.C. guiding President Obama’s daily agenda.

The Jewish politician resides in the Ravenswood neighborhood on the North Side with his wife Amy Rule and their three small children, Zach, Ilana and Leah.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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