Rahm Emanuel Elected Mayor of Chicago

Former Obama chief of staff avoids runoff, drawing more than 50 percent of vote.

Feb. 22, 2011— -- Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff, has realized his lifelong ambition to become mayor of Chicago.

With 97 percent of the vote in the Chicago mayor's race counted this evening, Emanuel, 51, had 55 percent, winning the mayoral election outright and avoiding a runoff in April.

"Looking forward to working together as your next mayor," he tweeted tonight.

After a topsy-turvy campaign, in which his Chicago residence was repeatedly challenged, Emanuel easily outdistanced a crowded field.

His closest challenger, longtime city official Gery Chico, drew only 25 percent of the vote.

Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, the so-called "consensus" African-American candidate, polled a distant fourth with only about 8 percent.

In his victory address at Plumbers Hall, Emanuel thanked his supporters and spoke about his vision for the city.

"We have not won anything until a child can go to school and not think of their safety we have not won anything. Until a parent can think of their work, and not where they're going to find work, we have not won anything," Emanuel said. "The plural pronoun of 'we' is how we're going to meet the challenges. ... I do not want to see another child's name in memorial killed by violence."

President Obama, Emanuel's longtime friend and former employer, issued a statement congratulating him after all five other candidates in the race had conceded.

"I want to extend my congratulations to Rahm Emanuel on a well-deserved victory tonight," the president said. "As a Chicagoan and a friend, I couldn't be prouder. Rahm will be a terrific mayor for all the people of Chicago."

For more on the history of the job of mayor in Chicago, why so many politicians want it, and an interview by George Stephanopoulos with current Mayor Richard Daley click here.

Turnout in Chicago was far lower than expected, according to city election officials, who said fewer than half of the city's registered voters showed up at the polls.

Emanuel takes office in May, succeeding Richard M. Daley who is retiring after 22 years in office -- serving longer than his famous father, Richard J. Daley, the last of America's big-city bosses.

Despite his big victory, Emanuel faces huge challenges including a crippling city budget deficit. The city faces a $655 million budget gap in the current fiscal year and unfunded pension liabilities estimated at more than $20 billion.

The results were not a surprise, as the most recent polls showed Emanuel far out in front, trailed by Chico.

Since Mayor Richard Daley announced he would not seek a record seventh term, Emanuel has led the pack in polling and fund-raising, amassing more than $12 million in campaign contributions.

An attempt by Rev. Jesse Jackson and others to solidify African-American support behind Braun largely fizzled as the former senator's campaign suffered numerous embarrassing gaffes.

Emanuel's most serious challenge had been expected to come from Chico, a former school board president and Daley chief of staff who had the support of Chicago's police and firefighters unions.