CHICAGO — Alderman Bob Fioretti announced his candidacy for mayor Saturday, saying Mayor Rahm Emanuel is divisive and "letting us all down," and outlining a platform focused on education, crime and the economy.
Over 150 community members gathered inside the East West University gymnasium Saturday morning to applaud Fioretti, the 2nd Ward alderman, as he officially announced plans to challenge Emanuel.
"We need one Chicago, not two. And to get there, we need a leader who will focus on bringing everyone together to deliver results that improve the lives of every Chicago family," Fioretti said Saturday morning.
"I pledge to be that leader. To listen to the broad coalition that is represented here today. To work with you, not against you. To be an advocate not just for the businesses in the Loop, but for the parts of the city that are too often ignored, where crime is a part of daily life, where there aren’t enough jobs," he said.
He touted his connections to the city, from his Italian immigrant father and Polish-American mother, to his blue-collar roots.
Fioretti laid out a platform focused on improving education, crime and the economy during his first speech after announcing his candidacy.
"I have served two terms in the Chicago City Council, under two different mayors. I have rolled up my sleeves and have dug into the legislative process, all the while working to be a voice of reason," he said. "Our current mayor promised so much, and like many of us, I hoped he would deliver. But our schools are being gutted, our streets are not safer and so many are missing out on economic opportunities and jobs."
He received the biggest applause for his stance on raising minimum wage to $15 and hour and instituting a 1 percent tax for commuters, which he said take a total of $30 billion in annual income to the suburbs.
On Saturday, he released an ad, telling voters the city needs a change in leadership.
He's the fifth challenger to enter the fray, joining former alderman Bob Shaw, West Side activist Amara Enyia, radio host William Kelly and police officer Frederick Collins. Earlier this summer, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, thought by many to be Emanuel's most formidable opponent, said she would not run for mayor.
Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis, who is mulling a mayoral bid, may also prove to be a hurdle in Emanuel's reelection.
One of the mayor's chief critics, Fioretti, an alderman since 2007, has stood on a progressive platform, opposing Emanuel on everything from school closings and crime to his closure of the city's mental-health clinics. His was redistricted out of his 2nd Ward, perhaps, he has said, in retaliation for his opposition to Emanuel.
Fioretti, who is a member of the City Council's progressive caucus, has stood up for causes including an elected school board, a higher minimum wage, and a commuter tax imposed on suburban residents who work in Chicago.
The Emanuel campaign shot back at Fioretti even before he officially announced his candidacy Saturday.
"Time and again, Alderman Fioretti has shown no backbone for making tough choices and little respect for Chicago taxpayers' pocketbooks," said Emanuel campaign spokesman Steve Mayberry. "Chicago can't tax itself out of our problems. Chicago needs, and has, a strong leader who has shown that he is willing to make tough decisions."
As the mayor's popularity has foundered, potential candidates like Lewis and Fioretti have gained traction with voters. A recent Tribune poll found about one in four voters would select Fioretti over Emanuel. Fioretti and Lewis could conceivably draw enough votes from Emanuel to keep him out of a runoff.
Fioretti, a white alderman leading a heavily black ward, has tried to make his presence known among the black community, attending church services and shaking hands on a regular basis.
Jim Raymond, hails from the South Side like Fioretti and thought that would be a key component in bringing the city together to dethrone Emanuel.
"The guy is from the South Side, where the roots of this city are. He's sensitive because of his background and it shows in the work he's done," Raymond said. "I've known him since law school. He was very influential then, too.
Fioretti must now ramp up his fundraising efforts. His campaign has a little more than $336,000 in the bank. Emanuel's campaign has more than $8 million.
“He’s going to have to raise three to five million and a volunteer political army of several thousand volunteers, which is a formidable task,” said Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a former alderman.
Simpson said Fioretti's messages, such as a commuter tax, could resonate with voters, but could be difficult to implement.
Fioretti's lack of name recognition citywide will be a challenge, but he could take votes away from core Emanuel constitutencies, such as the lakefront, Simpson said.
“It’s certainly a worthy effort, and whether it’s going to succeed, it’s too soon to tell,” Simpson said.
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