Chicago, Emanuel won along with Obama, mayor’s allies say
President Barack Obama’s re-election — and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s front-and-center role in it — will pay dividends for Chicago, mayoral allies predicted Wednesday.
Emanuel’s campaign promise to extend the CTA’s Red Line to 130th Street, create bus rapid transit lanes and build a 100-mile network of bike lanes are all possibilities now that Obama has won a second term, mayoral aides and allies said. Add to that the increased likelihood for federal “Race to the Top” funding for Chicago Public Schools and federal funding to make government buildings more energy-efficient, they said.
“To the extent that it positions President Obama to have four years without worrying about a re-election in the offing helps us,” said Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader.
“It’s the freedom of a second term that is appealing for Chicagoans,” O’Connor said. “The mayor’s agenda hasn’t changed. His asks have not changed. He’s always asked for what he thought was important for Chicago. We may be even more successful now because the president isn’t looking at a re-election coming up in his rearview mirror. He’s only looking at the next four years to try and solve the country’s problems. Chicago is an important part of this country and I think he’ll help us try and solve our problems.”
Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, added, “I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that there is no mayor in America [who] has a better link to the White House than Mayor Emanuel.”
Emanuel could not have played a more prominent role in the Obama campaign.
He kicked off the primary campaign by delivering a rousing testimonial to Obama’s leadership before Iowa Democrats, then did the same at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
After the convention address, Emanuel announced he had stepped down as co-chairman of Obama’s re-election campaign to serve as chief fundraiser for a political action committee supporting the president. The mayor then put his legendary fundraising skills to work to help Democrats narrow the gap with Republican PAC’s.
As one of Obama’s most effective campaign surrogates, Emanuel also spent the two closing weekends campaigning for Obama in the battleground states of Ohio and Florida, with a particular emphasis on his fellow Jewish voters in Florida.
In the final days, Emanuel rallied the troops at Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago and did a whirlwind of interviews with radio stations in battleground states.
If Emanuel had done all of that, only to see his former boss lose the White House, it would have been a huge blow to his political prestige and his practical ability to win federal funding for Chicago.
Not only would he have found it difficult to get his phone calls returned by the White House and Cabinet secretaries, his role as Obama’s chief campaign surrogate might have made him and Chicago a target for retribution.
Now, the Red Line extension and other big-ticket items on the mayor’s agenda are alive and well.
Emanuel’s clout with the White House has already won the NATO Summit for Chicago. Who knows what a second Obama term will bring?
“It doesn’t hurt to have been the president’s chief of staff, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have been an integral part of his re-election effort. But I don’t think Rahm did it just because it was going to be helpful to Chicago. That’s a byproduct,” O’Connor said.
“He’s an all-in type of individual in politics and in government,” he said. “He did it because he truly believes in the president. He is a great friend of the president. Obviously, when two good friends are working to make peoples’ lives better, you hope they’ll be able to come up with some concrete results. That’s what we hope for.”