DOWNTOWN — Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been re-elected in the city's first-ever runoff election, despite a challenge from Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.
The Board of Elections reports that as of 8:21 p.m., Emanuel had 55.83 percent of the vote and Garcia had 44.17 percent, with only 1457 of 2069 precincts reporting.
UPDATES FROM THE WARD RACES:
At Emanuel’s Election Day event at Plumbers Hall on the Near West Side, his supporters were confident. Faye Consuela said she put on her best red dress to show support for the mayor, who she’s been working to re-elect.
“I always come to the winning circle,” said the West Rogers Park resident. “I support winners.”
Consuela said Emanuel "was born” to run Chicago.
At Garcia's election night party Tuesday, supporter Melissa Kurylo said she hopes Emanuel will listen to city progressives.
"We need to make a statement as progressives but at the end of the day we're one Chicago," Kurylo, 40, said. "We're going to have to support our mayor because he was elected. But hopefully he's heard us. We have to come together at the end of the day."
The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners reported late Tuesday afternoon that turnout was at 28 percent and projected to top the record low in a citywide election of 33 percent, as well as the 34 percent turnout Feb. 24. Board inspectors called for an Emanuel election sign to be taken down from an inflatable Uncle Sam too near a polling place in the 13th Ward, and a handful of precincts were to be kept open an extra hour after opening late, but otherwise the election went smoothly.
Emanuel has stressed his steady stewardship of city finances and the willingness to make "hard decisions" and "tough choices," such as balancing the budget without raising gas, sales or property taxes, but hiking fees and also closing 50 schools his appointed Board of Education said were underutilized.
Garcia campaigned on the issues of instituting an elected school board, ending red-light and speed cameras and hiring the 1,000 additional police officers Emanuel promised but didn't add.
Emanuel has championed the city as an economic dynamo driven by Downtown business interests and increasing tourism. Garcia has countered that the city's neighborhoods have been neglected and need to be strengthened — that Chicago is "two cities" divided between rich and poor.
The two candidates debated head to head three times. In the first, Emanuel pointed out that Garcia voted for a pension holiday while a state senator in 1997. In the second, Garcia told Emanuel, "You are not the king of the city," and said Rahm couldn't deal out city property by "fiat" for projects like the Lucas Museum and the Obama Presidential Library.
In their last debate, in which Emanuel flashed his wit by calling Garcia a "Hanukkah Harry" who makes promises he can't keep, Emanuel said he would raise revenues through a progressive sales tax including services, a Chicago-owned casino and reforms to the Tax Increment Finance redevelopment program.
Emanuel, who began his political career as a fundraiser, has amassed a campaign war chest in excess of $20 million, but that has left him open to charges by Garcia of "pay-to-play" politics. He has also had to fend off Garcia's charges that city residents don't feel safe after murders spiked in 2012, although the Emanuel administration countered that crime is down from four years ago.
Only 34 percent of registered voters turned out for the municipal election Feb. 24, when Emanuel came in first place with 45.6 percent of the vote, sending him into a runoff with runner-up Garcia, who claimed 33.6 percent. But early voting rose by about 25 percent ahead of Tuesday's runoff, and requests for absentee ballots more than doubled.
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