Rahm Emanuel leading contenders in Chicago mayoral race

Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has a strong lead over the crowded field of candidates who want to become the next mayor of Chicago.

Emanuel has the support of 39 percent of likely voters in the Windy City, according to a We Ask America/Chicago Retail Merchants Association poll that was released Wednesday. 

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The other top candidates are former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.), who received 12 percent support, former school board president Gerry Chico with 9 percent and Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) with 7 percent. Nineteen percent of likely voters are still undecided.

Voters will head to the polls Feb. 22 to select a successor for longtime Mayor Richard M. Daley (D), who announced in September he will not seek another term. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held April 5.

The polls shows voters might be putting aside complaints about Emanuel's residency. With the former top White House adviser in the lead, Davis and other opponents have said he does not qualify for the ballot because he has not lived in Chicago for the year before the election. 

Emanuel's campaign has said he never forfeited his Chicago residency while working in Washington.

Outgoing Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) received only 2 percent backing, even though supporters filed a nominating petition on his behalf before Monday's filing deadline. Burris is considering an official bid.

The poll surveyed 2,255 likely voters on the Monday evening following the filing deadline. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.