Garry McCarthy inches closer to challenging Rahm Emanuel

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Former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy speaks to the City Club of Chicago in September 2016. | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy is inching closer to a 2019 race against the mayor who fired him.

McCarthy and his backers have reserved a domain name — — for an interactive website that will be used to raise money, “advertise” his candidacy and solicit voter feedback on pivotal issues for a race against embattled incumbent Rahm Emanuel.

The website was put up briefly Wednesday, but quickly taken down because it’s not ready, officials said.

Last year, McCarthy hired prominent Republican fundraiser Lori Montana. So far, he has raised less than $50,000 in “seed money,” well aware that, as one source put it, “People aren’t exactly crazy about giving money to help a politician make up his mind.”

Contacted on Tuesday, McCarthy would confirm only that the website name is his. He referred all other questions to the chairman of the exploratory committee he formed last fall to gauge his mayoral prospects, Northwest Side businessman Brian McCormack.

For awhile, this is what you saw if you went to <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>. Now, when you type in that web address, you get a simple white box with the words: “Please check back soon.” | Screensh

For awhile, this is what you saw if you went to Now, when you type in that web address, you get a simple white box with the words: “Please check back soon.” | Screenshot

McCormack said via text message that he was unable to comment on the website, which is still being developed.

The Emanuel campaign was duly unimpressed.

“While Mayor Emanuel is focused on reducing violence, improving schools and bringing even more jobs to Chicago, Garry McCarthy’s agenda is as empty as his website,” spokesman Pete Giangreco wrote in an emailed statement. “If candidates don’t have real plans and real accomplishments on these issues, then they really aren’t ready for the job.”

Last year, two surprise political retirements narrowed the field of mayoral contenders. Four-term Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced she would not seek re-election, but she assured Emanuel she would not run for mayor in 2019.

Ten weeks later, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez called it quits and attempted to anoint County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia as his successor.

That removed from the mayoral field the candidate who managed to force Emanuel into Chicago’s first mayoral runoff four years ago, even after getting a late start and being out-spent by a 4-to-1 margin.

On the day the Luis-to-Chuy deal was announced, McCarthy called Garcia’s exit an interesting development that would not “change the equation” on whether he runs or doesn’t run.

“I’m not so much looking at the rest of the field. I’m looking at my positioning and whether or not it’s something that is likely to succeed,” McCarthy said on that day.

“I’m kind of competing against myself. Who runs matters. But I’m trying to figure out if the electorate would be supportive of a person like me with my message. Once I figure that out, then I’ll figure out who the competition is.”

McCarthy pointed to polling done by his supporters that shows Emanuel’s “satisfaction rate in the 20s and 30s.”

An Emanuel political operative countered that the mayor’s polling shows he is finally “above water” — with a favorability rating above 50 percent — after a frenzied attempt to rehabilitate a public image that took a beating after the court-ordered release of video showing a Chicago Police officer fatally shooting Laquan McDonald.

After claiming that he had McCarthy’s back for weeks, Emanuel abruptly fired his only police superintendent on Dec. 1, 2015.

At the time, the mayor claimed that McCarthy had become a “distraction” in the unrelenting furor that followed the court-ordered release of a video played around the world of white Police Officer Jason Van Dyke pumping 16 rounds into the body of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald.

McCarthy has been on the warpath ever since. He has been particularly frustrated by the surge in homicides and shootings that followed his firing, and by the scathing indictment of the Chicago Police Department, prepared by a U.S. Justice Department, that didn’t even bother to interview the former superintendent.

He has also condemned what he calls Emanuel’s “illegitimate” end-run around the Police Board’s nationwide search for his replacement that allowed the mayor to choose Eddie Johnson, who didn’t even apply for the job.

If he decides to challenge his former boss, McCarthy is expected to concentrate heavily on his sweet spot: violent crime.

He’s expected to argue that Emanuel “got away with bragging about” a 20 percent reduction in homicides over the sky-high rates reached in 2016, even though Chicago’s murder rate is up 60 percent over a two-year period.

A former high-ranking deputy in the New York Police Department, McCarthy is also expected to play up the years he spent learning under former New York City Mayors Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg and former Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

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