Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel leaves office for last time, political future uncertain

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel left City Hall for the last time Friday afternoon, ending his eight-year, often turbulent tenure.

The mayor hugged and high-fived cheering staffers as he walked through the halls but quickly exited into a waiting black SUV outside, where a much smaller and quieter public crowd stood.


It was reportedly a drastically different scene from 2011, when Emanuel’s predecessor -- former Mayor Richard M. Daley, son of Chicago legend Richard J. Daley -- left office after 22 years on the job.

Sparred with Trump

Emanuel, who was known for being a flamboyant politician, started his mayoral career fighting with a teacher’s union, then consistently sparred with President Trump, defending Chicago as a sanctuary city. He also took heat for allegedly covering up a video of a police officer's 2014 fatal shooting of 17-year-old  Laquan McDonald until after he was re-elected to his second term, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. McDonald was shot 16 times. The officer, Jason Van Dyke, was convicted of second-degree murder.

The shooting happened at a critical point in Emanuel’s reelection campaign in 2015, and he didn’t release the video until after he won, and even then only under a judicial order. The city settled with McDonald’s family for $5 million.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced last September that he would not seek a third term in office. (Associated Press)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced last September that he would not seek a third term in office. (Associated Press)

"Again and again and again he has resisted reforms, he resisted the consent decree process that he has now embraced and is taking credit for as part of his legacy," investigative reporter Jamie Kalven wrote, according to WLS-TV in Chicago. Kalven first reported on the existence of the dashcam video of McDonald’s shooting.

'Dead tired'

In an interview with WLS, Emanuel explained he didn’t want to run for a third term because he was “dead tired.”

“Being mayor is not a part-time job," he said. "There is no Fourth of July holiday. I knew I didn't have four years in the gas tank.”

Many believe, however, that the 59-year-old Emanuel -- who first drew national attention as a congressman, then as an adviser to former President Bill Clinton and White House chief of staff for former President Barack Obama -- didn’t have the votes to get re-elected after the fallout from the McDonald shooting.

'Who knows if they even want me?'

“Rahm Emanuel could not have won the African-American vote needed to secure his spot as a three-term mayor,” Chicago Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton wrote last September. “The image of the 17-year-old [McDonald] lying on the pavement after Officer Jason Van Dyke pumped 16 bullets into his body is too ingrained in African-American voters’ minds.

He has ruled out running for president and said he needs a break from politics to be with his family. "However, should a Democrat win in 2020, might you go to Washington? You know what, who knows if they even want me?” he told Chicago's WMAQ-TV.


Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot takes office on Monday.