Obama’s ex-chief of staff Rahm Emanuel getting reacquainted with Chicago ahead of mayoral run

By Karen Hawkins, AP
Monday, October 4, 2010

Emanuel to get reacquainted with Chicago

CHICAGO — Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel began his campaign for mayor of Chicago in earnest on Monday, greeting commuters at a downtown elevated train station.

“Hi, how are you? Good to see you. Have a nice day,” Emanuel said to commuters on the first stop of his “Tell It Like It Is” listening tour.

Emanuel, who stepped down as President Barack Obama’s top aide Friday to run for mayor, was greeted warmly by commuters, some of whom took his picture with cell phone cameras.

“I like how he’s talking to everybody,” said Maria Martinez, a 21-year-old Chicagoan heading downtown for a sales job.

Emanuel will certainly be characterized by opponents as an outsider after his time in Washington, D.C., but Martinez said she sees him as a fellow Chicagoan.

“I still say he’s from Chicago,” she said. “He’s here, isn’t he.”

Emanuel announced his “Tell It Like It Is” tour over the weekend on a new website, ChicagoforRahm.com. In a video posted on that site, he said he plans to make plenty of stops around the city.

“As I prepare to run for mayor, I’m going to spend the next few weeks visiting our neighborhoods — at grocery stores, L stops, bowling alleys and hot dog stands,” Emanuel said. “I want to hear from you — in blunt Chicago terms — what you think about our city, and how the next mayor and you can make it better.”

On Monday morning, Emanuel was dressed much as he was in the two-minute video in which he sat at a desk wearing a white shirt with an open collar and a dark jacket. Behind him is a photo of his family and several books.

In making the announcement in a YouTube video, Emanuel appears to be following in the online footsteps of Obama, who was successful in galvanizing support among younger voters with a strong Internet presence and near constant contact through text messages, e-mails and Facebook notes.

Emanuel’s website offers several options for receiving updates, including e-mail and text, and more than 15,000 Facebook users had “liked” his page by Monday morning.

Lori Goldberg, an Emanuel spokeswoman, said the online video was an attempt to reach as many people as possible. Emanuel plans to make “a more formal announcement” after the November election.

“By having the website up, it also allows people to communicate with him,” Goldberg said.

Bruce Newman, professor of marketing at DePaul University, called the online announcement “a clever move.”

“(Emanuel’s) ability to communicate via the social media will be critical to his success,” Newman said. “The voter in today’s world is tuning in to a whole different level of communication.”

But other political analysts said the online approach won’t work for all voters.

“This is going to be a Generation X campaign with Facebook, Twitter and all that … but you should never forget the power of friend talking to friend, neighbor talking to neighbor,” said Tom Manion, a longtime political operative who directed Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s first re-election campaign in 1991.

Indeed, one of the challenges facing Emanuel in a mayoral run is reconnecting with Chicago voters after his time in Washington. Emanuel highlighted his ties to Chicago in the video Sunday, noting his three terms representing a North Side district in Congress before serving as Obama’s chief of staff.

“It was a great honor to work for (Obama), but I’m glad to be home,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel’s website says his family’s home is in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. But a tenant recently re-signed a lease for the home, leaving Emanuel to rent a condo closer to downtown, Goldberg said.

She said his three children will stay in Washington to finish the school year.

Daley announced last month that he would not seek a seventh term as mayor.

Emanuel joins a crowded field of Democrats who have announced or hinted that they’re running. Among them are Chicago School Board president and close Daley ally Gery Chico, Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and state Sen. James Meeks, who’s also the pastor of a church in the city’s South Side.

Before Emanuel’s announcement Sunday, Chico called on him to release details about his dealings with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration in regard to the U.S. Senate seat once held by Obama.

Blagojevich will be retried next year on federal charges that allege he schemed to sell the seat after his first trial ended in a mistrial. Emanuel was not called to testify and hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing.

Del Valle said in a statement before Emanuel’s announcement that he welcomes “all candidates to the race and look forward to a spirited campaign.”

“This is the first time in 67 years that there is an open seat, and a crowded field will ignite interest and give voters choice,” del Valle said.

Associated Press Writer Karen Hawkins contributed to this report.

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