Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Tuesday he will not seek re-election next year, throwing open the top job in the third-largest U.S. city five months before the election.
Emanuel, who has been mayor since 2011 and previously served as White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama, was up for a third term and would have faced a crowded field of candidates in February.
About a dozen people have said they will run to be the next mayor, according to local media reports, as criticism mounts of Emanuel’s failure to curb gun violence that has plagued the city’s poorest minority neighborhoods.
“This has been the job of a lifetime, but it is not a job for a lifetime,” Emanuel told reporters in an emotional announcement at City Hall alongside his wife Amy Rule. With their three children now in college, it was time for a new chapter, Emanuel said without elaborating.
Emanuel’s announcement came just days after a petition drive headed by former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn was initially found by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners to have submitted enough signatures to place a referendum on the Nov. 6 city ballot that would limit a Chicago mayor to two terms in office.
“Chicago is better and stronger for his leadership, and I was a better President for his wise counsel at a particularly perilous time for our country,” Obama said in a statement.
“Whatever he chooses to do next, I know he’ll continue to make a positive difference, just as he has throughout his career in public service,” Obama continued.
The Chicago mayoral candidate field includes former Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy whom Emanuel fired following release of a video showing the 2014 fatal police shooting of a black teenager. Jury selection in the trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, at the center of the shooting of Laquan McDonald, is set to begin on Wednesday.
Mayoral challengers also include Paul Vallas, the former Chief Executive of Chicago Public Schools, and Lori Lightfoot, who served as president of the Chicago Police Board.
The campaign committee of Emanuel, who also served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, had $7.56 million in its coffers as of June 30, according to a quarterly filing with the Illinois State Board of Elections.