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Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff, at a forum in Chicago on April 27. (Associated Press)

Emanuel Leaving White House; Chicago Mayor Run No Cakewalk

by Ken Rudin
Sep 30, 2010

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Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff who surprised many back in April when he said it was "no secret" he would like to be mayor of Chicago, will announce Friday (tomorrow) he is stepping down and will return to the Windy City — and is likely to pursue the mayoralty that Richard Daley is leaving after 21 years.

The news has been confirmed by NPR's David SchaperPresident Obama is expected to make remarks about Emanuel at 11:05 a.m. Friday.

Emanuel has been a larger-than-life presence in the administration, with nearly every major decision made at the White House needing a sign-off from him, everything from Afghanistan to health care.  He is expected to be replaced as chief of staff by Pete Rouse, who is Emanuel's deputy and who served as Obama's CoS during his brief time in the Senate.  Many reports say Rouse may be only a temporary replacement, but that may not necessarily be the case.

Emanuel joined Obama after just three terms in the House, where as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee he was instrumental in winning control of the House in 2006.  But he was never an ideologue, more interested in results, or a candidate's chances of winning, than satisfying any litmus tests set by others.  Which is one reason many on the left soured on him.

Long thought to have ambitions to become speaker, his decision to leave Congress in 2009 was a surprise.  But so was Daley's decision to leave as mayor.  (See Junkie posts, Sept. 7 and Sept. 9.)

Emanuel is expected to officially announce his candidacy in the next couple of weeks, after what Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet reports will be a "listening tour" of the city's neighborhoods.  The candidate filing deadline is Nov. 22.  The primary is Feb. 22, 2011.

With his name recognition and ability to raise money in a hurry, Emanuel has to be considered a leading candidate, along with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.  But there are plenty of other possibles, including Reps. Danny Davis & Luis Gutierrez, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, state Sen. James Meeks, and who knows how many city aldermen.  But it might not be a cakewalk.  As the Wall Street Journal's Douglas Belkin notes, Emanuel was "raised in the suburbs and, though he represented the North Side in Congress for three terms, has relatively weak ties to the city and a limited natural constituency. During his tenure in the Obama administration, he has alienated progressives, unions and even some in the Jewish community—of which he is a part."

Trivia:  The last person to go from Congress to the Chicago mayoralty was Harold Washington, in 1983.  Another one, Bobby Rush, tried but failed miserably against Daley in 1999, as did Danny Davis, not yet a member of Congress, in 1991.

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