Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced he will not run for re-election, a decision that could provide President Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel with an escape route from tough times in the White House and a chance to pursue his dream job in his hometown.
Emanuel on Tuesday wasn't commenting on whether he plans to seek the 12,500 signatures required to get his name on the ballot in the Feb. 22 election, but he has made no secret of his desire to run the Windy City.
Emanuel represented Chicago's North Side for three terms in Congress, leaving in 2009 to run the West Wing after winning a fourth term.
He told “The Charlie Rose Show” in April, “One day I would like to run for mayor of the city of Chicago,” if Daley decided not to seek another term. “That's always been an aspiration of mine even when I was in the House of Representatives.”
Emanuel praised Daley in a statement Tuesday but gave no hints about his own plans.
“While Mayor Daley surprised me today with his decision to not run for re-election, I have never been surprised by his leadership, dedication and tireless work on behalf of the city and the people of Chicago,” Emanuel said.
A senior administration official told the Washington Post on Tuesday, “I'd be shocked if he doesn't run.”
Emanuel was known on Capitol Hill for being both aggressive and capable. He worked his way into the leadership as an influential member of Congress, where he ran the House Democratic Conference. In the years prior to his departure to the White House, he played chief arm-twister, helping to get tough bills passed alongside the more mild-mannered House Majority Whip, James Clyburn, D-S.C.
Emanuel played a key role in helping the Democrats retake the House in 2006, raising nearly $65 million as head of the party's campaign arm in the House.
As Obama's chief of staff, he has continued to play a key role in shaping legislation and getting President Obama's agenda passed.
The filing deadline for those who want to run for mayor is Dec. 13, which would allow Emanuel to stay in the Obama administration until after the Nov. 5 elections that many predict will be brutal for Democrats and could result in big GOP increases in the House and Senate.
Typically, a White House chief of staff stays on for only a few years.
There could be other top Democratic contenders for the mayor's spot, including Democratic Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Luis Gutierrez.
Emanuel once worked as an aide to Daley, who has been mayor for the past 21 years and was re-elected to a sixth term in 2007 with nearly 71 percent of the vote.
Daley told reporters at a news conference the decision was a personal one and not based on politics.
“It's time for me, it's time for Chicago to move on,” Daley said.