Election for mayor of Chicago: Is Emanuel in trouble? - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Election for mayor of Chicago: Is Emanuel in trouble?

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Many believed Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was Mayor Rahm Emanuel's toughest potential challenger, but today she explained why she's not the one.

In addition to ruling out a run for mayor, Preckwinkle said she probably won't play any role in next winter's campaign.

“I didn't make an endorsement in the 2011 race. And I don't really anticipate making one in 2015,” Preckwinkle said.

Preckwinkle said that she'll focus, instead, on the huge financial challenges facing County government. A recent voter opinion survey had shown her leading Emanuel by an astounding 24 percentage points. That same survey found the outspoken President of the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis, leading Emanuel by nine percentage points. With Preckwinkle out, union officials close to Lewis said she may form an exploratory committee.

At a news conference a few minutes before all this became public, Emanuel appeared to be trying out lines he might use if his chief challenger is Lewis. She's been an implacable foe of his public school policies.

“The issues facing the City of Chicago are very serious. Are we gonna make sure, as we have, of an ever-increasing graduation rate? More kids are going to college than ever before. Or, are we gonna go back to where almost half our kids used to drop out,” Emanuel asked.

Emanuel infuriated public employee unions as he responded to inherited budget problems that have given Chicago the worst credit rating of any U.S. city, except Detroit. Despite closing about 50 schools, the Board of Education still faces a billion dollar shortfall. The firefighters pension fund could go broke in five years, with pension funds for police, teachers and other City Hall workers not far behind.

Lewis and Ald. Bob Fioretti, another potential mayoral candidate, have supported a Detroit-style city income tax on suburban commuters, as well as new taxes on the international financial exchanges based Downtown. For her part, Lewis was reportedly out of town on vacation. Another teachers union official said Lewis would hit the ground running when she returned.

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