BY Corky Siemaszko
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Chicago voters were poised Tuesday to move former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel a huge step closer to becoming the Windy City's first Jewish mayor.
Most polls showed Emanuel leading the pack of Democrats vying for the top job in City Hall—he's been the clear front-runner since he resigned to run for mayor last fall. [Read 10 things you didn't know about Emanuel.]
Emanuel has to win more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff on April 5. And Republicans are scarce in Chicago.
So winning the Democratic primary would give Emanuel a lock on a job that Richard Daley held for more than two decades.
Emanuel's former boss and fellow Chicagoan, President Obama, has not weighed in publicly on the mayoral race. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on Obama.]
Also vying for mayor are former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, former Chicago public schools president Gery Chico, City Clerk Miguel del Valle and two largely unknown longshot candidates.
Voting appeared to be brisk in a city where the dead have been known to cast ballots and where election day hijinks are part of the local lore.
Emanuel's five-month bid to become mayor had its share of unexpected twists and turns.
He had to prove he was a Chicagoan and thus entitled to run for mayor in a legal battle went all the way up to the Illinois Supreme Court.
He also had to fend off a challenge by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other black leaders, who tried to get the city's massive African-American vote behind Braun.
Armed with name recognition and a $12 million war chest, pollsters said Emanuel appeared to shaved off at least half of the black vote.
He also was believed to be running strong in Chicago's other big voting blocks—the Poles and Hispanics.