CHICAGO — Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel officially announced his candidacy for mayor of Chicago Saturday, promising to fight any tax increase for city residents.
"We cannot ask taxpayers for more when families are struggling to stay afloat in this economy," he told supporters packing an elementary school auditorium on the city's North Side. "We cannot price Chicagoans out of their homes, their schools and their communities."
Emanuel, who's been campaigning unofficially since he left the White House weeks ago, made some other common political promises as well: to fight crime, create jobs, improve education and make government accessible to residents.
He promised that before the Feb. 22 election he would make three speeches outlining specific ideas in education, crime and gangs, and the city's finances.
Emanuel is one of about a half dozen candidates who have either formally announced or are about to.
State Sen. James Meeks and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis have similar events scheduled Sunday, and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun is expected to announce in the next week or so. Former city schools President Gery Chico and City Clerk Miguel del Valle have already declared they're running. [See which industries are giving money to Davis.]
Emanuel addressed what has already been a contention by other candidates — that he's an outsider. He talked of how his grandfather came to Chicago from Europe, how Emanuel was born and raised in Chicago and how he and his wife are raising their family here as well.
"Only the opportunity to help President Obama as his chief of staff could have pried me away from here," Emanuel said. "And only the opportunity to lead this city could have pried me away from the president's side." [See a gallery of the Obamas behind the scenes.]
Emanuel represented the city's North Side in Congress before he went to the White House. Since his return, Emanuel also has been courting donors who can add to the $1.2 million left from his congressional campaign fund.
He praised retiring Mayor Richard Daley but also hinted at mistakes the city has made under him.
"We cannot keep putting off hard choices and hoping things will get better, while drawing down each year on rapidly diminishing reserves."