Chicago voters to head to polls for mayor's race
CHICAGO (AP) Chicago voters head to the polls Tuesday in the city's first mayoral runoff as Rahm Emanuel seeks a second term over Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.
The candidates crisscrossed Chicago a day earlier to greet commuters, rally supporters and call voters. Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff, has tried to convince the public he's the best person to navigate Chicago's mounting fiscal problems. Garcia has criticized Emanuel for not listening to neighborhood residents and touted a strong get-out-the-vote effort.
Here are some things to know about Tuesday:
EARLY VOTING SURGE
The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners says more than 142,300 residents voted early, compared with nearly 90,000 ahead of the February election and roughly 73,200 before the 2011 election.
Both campaigns emphasized early voting, with the candidates casting ballots ahead of Tuesday. Still, election officials have been uncertain about how many early votes may have been due to Chicagoans trying to vote before heading out on spring break vacations.
CHICAGO'S FIRST RUNOFF
The mayoral runoff is Chicago's first since the city adopted nonpartisan elections in the 1990s. Emanuel failed to win a majority in February's first-round election. He finished first in the five-candidate field, winning 45 percent, while Garcia came in second with roughly 34 percent.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
Chicago's next mayor faces major issues, including the worst-funded pensions of any major U.S. city, upcoming contract negotiations with a teachers union that went on strike in 2012 and a persistent crime problem. The leader of the nation's third-largest city will also have to attract new residents and businesses.
Emanuel has tried to convince voters that controversial actions such as closing dozens of schools in 2013 were beneficial. But in the process he's admitted his famously aggressive approach could have been softer. He's also tried to poke holes in his opponent's experience.
Emanuel spent Monday shaking hands with the breakfast crowd and calling voters. He told reporters he's been reminding people of his achievements: lobbying successfully for full-day kindergarten and a higher minimum wage.
"People going to the polls are interested in Chicago's future," he said. "They're voting for the basic things that they want for their families, their neighborhoods and their communities."
Garcia's message has been that he'll focus on every neighborhood, and he says Emanuel has largely paid attention to the wealthy and businesses. He's also played on frustrations with schools and violence.
Supporters including the Rev. Jesse Jackson rallied Monday in the heavily Mexican Pilsen neighborhood. They blasted Emanuel for not taking down widely criticized red-light cameras, while praising Garcia for meeting with residents over noise complaints near O'Hare International Airport.
"We weren't supposed to be here. We were counted out," Garcia told supporters. "People had their say in Chicago."
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