I’ve covered a lot of Chicago mayoral races, going back to Harold Washington’s 1983 run—still the most exciting municipal election campaign I have ever witnessed.
I don’t claim to know everything about Windy City politics. But I do know this: Rahm Emanuel should think twice before giving up his day job.
Emanuel let slip earlier this year that, were Mayor-for-Life Richard Daley Jr. to ever call it quits, he might be interested in filling the vacancy.
Well, Daley’s quitting.
But don’t think that means that Barack Obama’s chief of staff is going to makean easy leap from DC to Chicago—a city he briefly represented in Congress during the interregnum that separated his tenures in the Clinton and Obama White Houses.
As the Chicago Sun-Times‘s very wise Lynn Sweet explains in a piece headlined "Rahm Has Money, But No Solid Base": "While White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is lionized in Washington, he would not start a mayoral race in Chicago automatically first in line to replace Mayor Daley."
Emanuel’s roots are only barely in Chicago, a city that takes neighborhood politics so seriously that it matters which side of the street you were born on.
Yes, he was born in the city. But he grew up in the suburbs, graduating from Winnetka’s New Trier West High School and the Evanston School of Ballet before heading off to Sarah Lawrence.
It is true that he once raised money for Mayor Daley and is close to some key local pols, including David Axelrod.
But when Emanuel ran for Rod Blagojevich‘s US House seat in 2002, he was opposed in the Democratic primary by former Illinois State Representative Nancy Kaszak, who drew significant union support and won 39 percent of the vote—despite being dramatically outspent by the former Clinton administration aide. Labor was angry with Emanuel for the role he played as a key proponent of the North American Free Trade Agreement, extending Permanent Most-Favored Nation Trading Status to China and other schemes that benefitted Wall Street and multinational corporations but accelerated the deindustrialization of cities such as Chicago and the loss of family-supporting jobs.