Rahm Emanuel, a top adviser to two U.S. presidents who returned to Chicago just months ago, swept into the mayor's office Tuesday, inheriting a city reeling from recession and promising to reshape City Hall.
He achieved what was considered almost unthinkable just months ago, collecting a majority of support against five opponents in the first Chicago election without a sitting mayor since 1947.
In a city with its share of racial divisions, Emanuel appealed to voters across those lines. He won the predominantly white wards of his former congressional district on the North and Northwest Sides. And the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama also scored substantial margins in predominantly African-American neighborhoods.
"All I can say, you sure know how to make a guy feel at home," Emanuel, who faced a high-profile legal challenge to his residency, told a packed room at a plumbers' union hall on the Near West Side. "Because of the people of Chicago, this is the warmest place in America."
Emanuel will become Chicago's first Jewish mayor and 46th overall. He'll succeed Mayor Richard Daley, the city's longest-serving chief executive.
Emanuel amassed 55.1 percent with 98 percent of city precincts counted, above the 50 percent benchmark he needed to win outright and avoid an April runoff and six more weeks of campaigning. Gery Chico had 24.1 percent while Miguel del Valle 9.3 percent and Carol Moseley Braun 8.8 percent. Two lesser-known candidates, Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins and William "Dock" Walls, received less than 3 percent combined.
Emanuel won 40 of the city's 50 wards, getting more than 70 percent of the vote in the heavily populated lakefront wards. Emanuel also won with more than 50 percent of the vote in wards with large African-American populations, racking up margins of at least 2-to-1 over the major black candidate, Braun.
Chico won the remaining 10 city wards. They were primarily in Latino-heavy wards on the Southwest Side, where he was raised, and the West Side. Chico, Daley's former chief of staff, also won the 19th and 41st wards, both with large populations of police and firefighters whose unions endorsed him. Still, Chico's vote advantage over Emanuel in those wards was not significant.
Turnout was 41 percent, nearly 10 points lower than election officials predicted.
Emanuel nodded to the tests facing the city and said he will deal with them head-on, but also by seeking help.
"Tonight, we are moving forward in the only way we truly can _ together, as one city with one future," he said. "The real work of building a better future begins tonight and I intend to enlist ... every one of you in our city."
Less than two hours after the polls closed, all three major candidates opposing Emanuel conceded the race. After routinely butting heads with Emanuel in the final weeks of the campaign, Chico pledged to support the mayor-elect when he takes office.
"I want with all my heart for Rahm Emanuel to be successful," said Chico, the former Chicago Board of Education president. "Let's all work together to get behind the new mayor and make this the best city on the face of the earth."
A former U.S. senator, Braun did not mention Emanuel's name in her concession speech, but said she wished "the victor all the success in taking up the reins of government."
As presidential adviser David Axelrod watched from a balcony, Emanuel told supporters he had received a congratulatory call from Obama, who later released a statement saying "as a Chicagoan and a friend, I couldn't be prouder. Rahm will be a terrific mayor for all the people of Chicago."
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