Rahm Emanuel officially announced Saturday what everyone has known since he quit his job as White House chief of staff, hugged President Obama and returned to Chicago: He's in.
To the surprise of no one, Emanuel, who has long talked about his desire to be mayor, told a packed auditorium at a school on Chicago's North Side that he is running to succeed retiring Mayor Richard Daley. The election is Feb. 22.
Emanuel represented the city's North Side in Congress before he went to the White House. He has been actively campaigning in the city since his return about two months ago.
"Only the opportunity to help President Obama as his chief of staff could have pried me away from here," Emanuel said Saturday. "And only the opportunity to lead this city could have pried me away from the president's side."
Since his return, Emanuel also has been courting donors who can add to the $1.2 million left from his congressional campaign fund.
He is one of about a half dozen candidates who have either formally announced or are about to.
State Sen. James Meeks and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis have similar events scheduled Sunday, and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun is expected to announce in the next week or so. Former city schools President Gery Chico and City Clerk Miguel del Valle have already declared they're running.
But Emanuel has emerged as the front-runner, in part because of his money and national profile and because other high-profile candidates, such as Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, have dropped out.
During his announcement speech, Emanuel pledged not to raise taxes and to award city contracts to the lowest bidder.
"Our first responsibility is to make the tough choices that have been avoided too long because of politics and inertia," he said.