Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor of Chicago on Tuesday, easily overwhelming five rivals to take the helm of the third-largest US city.
With 97 percent of the precincts reporting, Emanuel had trounced five opponents with 55% of the vote, a margin that allowed him to avoid an April runoff. He needed more than 50% of the vote to win outright.
It was the city's first mayoral race in more than 60 years without an incumbent on the ballot and the first in more than two decades without Richard M. Daley among the candidates. Daley and his father have led Chicago for more than 43 out of the last 56 years.
Emanuel called the victory "humbling" and thanked Daley for his lifetime of service, saying the outgoing mayor had "earned a special place in our hearts and our history."
But he added: "We have not won anything until a kid can go to school thinking of their studies and not their safety. Until the parent of that child is thinking about their work and not where they are going to find work, we have not won anything."
President Barack Obama sent his good wishes to Emanuel. The president said in a statement that Emanuel's victory was well-deserved and he couldn't be prouder of his fellow Chicagoan and friend.
The other major candidates - former Chicago schools president Gery Chico, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and City Clerk Miguel del Valle - had hoped to force a runoff that would have extended the campaign for six more weeks. But they were no match for Emanuel's momentum and money.
Emanuel, a 51-year-old married father of three, will be the city's first Jewish mayor. He is a well-known figure in national Democratic politics. He worked for two presidents and served three terms representing Chicago's North Side in the US House of Representatives.
Emanuel had just been elected to his fourth term in 2008, when he resigned to work for fellow Chicagoan Obama as White House chief of staff. It was a job he held until he resigned in October 2010 to run for Chicago mayor. He had also worked as a top aide to Bill Clinton.
The new mayor faces a daunting series of challenges, including fixing the city's finances, addressing underfunded employee pensions and confronting a shrinking urban population.
The new mayor will have to decide quickly on a politically unpalatable strategy for improving city finances that may involve raising taxes and cutting services and public employee benefits.
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