The more challengers line up to take on Emanuel for mayor, the better his odds

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Former Chicago schools CEO Paul Vallas is expected on Monday to officially announce his candidacy for mayor of Chicago. | Sun-Times files

Bring ‘em on!

As the candidate announcements for Chicago’s mayoral election roll in, that could be Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s slogan for 2019.

Emanuel looks more vulnerable than ever in his high-powered political career. He is despised by many, with a record chock full of disasters: His gross mismanagement in the aftermath of the Laquan McDonald police shooting, the city’s high crime rates; his decision to close more than 50 Chicago public schools; and the numerous hikes on city taxes and fees, just for starters.


The challengers are lining up, eager to draw more blood from the politically wounded mayor.

Yes, Emanuel is vulnerable. Yes, his take-no-prisoners, myopic, tone-deaf governing style has alienated voters across the city.

And yes, the more mayoral hopefuls, the better. For Emanuel.

On Monday, Paul Vallas, the former Chicago Public Schools CEO and city budget director, will file the official paperwork for a run. He joins former Police Supt. Garry McCarthy; businessman and philanthropist Willie Wilson; Troy LaRaviere, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association; and Neal Sales-Griffin, a tech entrepreneur.

There are likely more to come. Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, and Ra Joy, an unsuccessful lieutenant governor candidate in the 2018 primary, all are reportedly considering bids.

As in 2015, nearly every city demographic will be represented. All are banking on forcing the mayor into a runoff. And all will fight for — and divide — the anti-Emanuel vote.

McCarthy and Vallas will compete for disgruntled whites on the North and South sides and lakefront.

McCarthy, whom Emanuel fired over the Laquan McDonald case, says he is running as a “conservative Democrat.” He spouts tough law-and-order talk. With black voters, McCarthy will be dead on arrival. He is knee-deep in the McDonald debacle. McCarthy’s recent claim that he is running to “save black lives” was scorned in the ‘hood.

Vallas, banking on his extensive government experience, will appeal to black voters by claiming that he stewarded major school reform during his CPS tenure, in the late 1990s.

That was nearly 20 years ago. Vallas’ tenure in the Richard M. Daley administration is a distant — and suspect — memory.

The African-American hopefuls include Wilson, whose 2015 mayoral run won him 10 percent of the vote. Chicago needs a successful businessman to run the city, he says. (Voters might note that spin isn’t working too well for Gov. Bruce Rauner and President Donald J. Trump).

Remember Wilson’s 2016 presidential run? (You missed that one, ‘eh?). Wilson may be destined to become the Tio Hardiman of mayoral politics.

Firebrand LaRaviere is a longtime Emanuel critic. In 2016, his tussle with the mayor got him fired from his job as principal at Blaine Elementary School. That looks like another grudge match, ala McCarthy.

Sales-Griffin offers youthful idealism, but is a virtual unknown.

All must compete, not only against Emanuel, but against their own demographics.

Since Harold Washington was mayor, the city’s different interest groups have never gotten the divide-and-conquer memo. The more of “us” are in, the more “we” split the vote.

Ego, self-interest, hubris and miscalculation will prevent most from unifying around the strongest candidate to get a clear shot at Emanuel.

Curiously, no Latino contender has emerged. In 2015, it was Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia who forced Emanuel into a runoff.

Since then, the mayor has aggressively courted the Latino vote, fiercely defending Chicago’s sanctuary city status and excoriating Trump, America’s No. 1 Enemy of immigrants.

Right now, for this mayor, the more, the merrier.

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