Emanuel becomes ‘Mr. Mayor’ in Chicago; Obama ‘couldn’t be prouder’

Rahm Emanuel will be the next mayor of Chicago, winning enough of Tuesday’s primary vote to avoid a runoff election.

Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff, received 55 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s mayoral primary. He needed more than 50 percent to avoid a runoff. Former Chicago Public Schools President Gery Chico came in second with 24 percent, with 86 percent of precincts reporting, according to The Associated Press.

{mosads}His victory speech had an overarching theme of unity.

“Tonight we are moving forward in the only way we truly can. Together, as one city, with one future,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel added that he hoped to work with both his opponents in the race and the city council. Some Chicago political observers have predicted that Emanuel would chafe with the city council, unlike his predecessor.

Emanuel also praised outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley.

“Nobody has ever loved Chicago or served it with greater passion or commitment,” he said. “This city bears his imprint and he deserves a special place in our hearts and our history.”

Emanuel said that before he took the stage for his victory speech he spoke with both President Obama and with Daley.

“I’ve also just talked to President Obama, who sends you his love and his affection for his hometown,” Emanuel said. 

The president congratulated Emanuel in a statement released Tuesday night.

“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.”

Emanuel, who left the White House last year to run for mayor, had been the front-runner in the race since he entered, raising more money and leading in the polls.

But his campaign was not without controversy.

For the majority of the race, Emanuel defended his residency status, fighting back against allegations he didn’t meet the requirements to run for mayor. At issue was his work in the White House. Opponents charged his time there meant he hadn’t been living in Chicago and, therefore, couldn’t run. Emanuel took the legal fight all the way to the state Supreme Court, which ruled he did meet the residency requirement. The judgment came down just as early voting began.

Although Obama never campaigned for Emanuel, he was supportive of his candidacy. Obama said in a press conference last week that his former chief of staff seemed to be doing fine in the race, and also defended Emanuel’s Chicago residency.

Former President Clinton, whom Emanuel also worked for, took his support a step further, campaigning for his former aide in January and hosting a fundraiser.

In the last weeks of the race Emanuel’s opponents became increasingly aggressive, as polls showed Emanuel pulling farther into the lead. Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) compared Emanuel to a Nazi sympathizer in the movie “The Producers,” (and soon apologized for the comparison) and Chico ferociously attacked Emanuel on one of his tax policies.

Daley, the longest serving mayor in the city’s history, announced in September he would not run for reelection. His term will end May 16, 2011.

Watch Emanuel’s victory speech below.

— This post was updated at 12:26 a.m.

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