Updated at 1:50 p.m. ET
In a surprise announcement on Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he will not be seeking a third term in office in the 2019 election.
Emanuel, a former congressman and White House chief of staff, has come under heavy criticism in recent years for an increase in gun violence in the city and tense police-community relations as a result of police shootings. He has also struggled to get a handle on rising pension debt.
But the announcement that he is walking away from the mayor’s office is a political stunner.
Member station WBEZ reports:
” ‘I’m not shy and, together, we’ve never shied from a challenge,’ Emanuel said at a hastily planned City Hall press conference with his wife, Amy Rule, at his side.
” ‘Today, the time has come to make another tough choice. As much as I love this job and will always love this city and its residents, I’ve decided not to seek re-election,’ Emanuel said. ‘This has been the job of a lifetime, but it is not a job for a lifetime.’ ”
Emanuel had already raised more than $10 million for his re-election campaign, WBEZ notes.
The timing of the announcement was notable, for several reasons.
Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has been pushing for a referendum vote on whether Chicago mayors should have a two-term limit on their time in office. As Reuters notes, Quinn’s petition appears to have reached a milestone — enough signatures to be placed on the ballot, at least hypothetically — just a few days ago.
And The Associated Press points out that Emanuel’s news conference “comes the day before the start of one of the biggest police-shooting trials in the history of Chicago — the murder trial of police officer Jason Van Dyke.”
In 2014, Van Dyke fatally shot black teenager Laquan McDonald. Police reports stated that it was an act of self-defense, but dashcam footage of the shooting, released more than a year later, showed McDonald was walking away from police as Van Dyke shot him.
Emanuel faced widespread criticism over his handling of the shooting, and the trial is expected to put his decisions under scrutiny once more.
At least 11 candidates are gearing up for the 2019 mayoral race — including an activist, a millionaire businessman, a college student, the former head of Chicago Public Schools, the Cook County Circuit Court clerk and a former president of the Chicago Police Board.