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Emanuel won’t rule out another run for public office

With three months until Chicago voters elect a successor to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the 17 announced mayoral hopefuls collectively have taken in more than $7.7 million in campaign contributions. That doesn’t come close to matching the $12.8 million that Emanuel amassed since winning a second term in 2015, only to decide he won’t run again.

With three months until Chicago voters elect a successor to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the 17 announced mayoral hopefuls collectively have taken in more than $7.7 million in campaign contributions. That doesn’t come close to matching the $12.8 million that Emanuel amassed since winning a second term in 2015, only to decide he won’t run again next year. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday he would not rule out another run for public office — but he won’t even ponder it until he gives the next seven months the same “frantic” energy he has given the last seven years, then take a break to unwind from the ordeal.

“I don’t think I’ll think about that until I’m outta here for a while,” he said.

When a reporter noted that he hadn’t ruled out a return to elected office, Emanuel smiled, saying: “Well, then, you get to write your next story.”

But that will only happen after he runs through the tape, as he put it.

“They didn’t elect me for three-and-a-half years. They elected me for four years. I owe `em everything. … I know when the sand is starting to come down real quick. That will happen. And I’m gonna push it physically, intellectually as fast and far out as I can. … And then, Amy and I are already discussing what we will plan just for us, things that we’ve postponed. And I’m gonna just take some time.”

Emanuel was asked about a race for the U.S. Senate if and when Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) calls it quits.

He refused to speculate on that or discuss any specific offices, except to repeat his longstanding mantra that there are “five great chief executive jobs” in American politics: president of the United States, governor of California, governor of New York, mayor of New York and mayor of Chicago.

“I’ve been the mayor for two terms in one of those great jobs. And I’ve worked in two White Houses with two great presidents. And within four years, I got into the leadership. I’m comfortable that I’ve done my work for 24 years,” he said.

“The way you should look at it is not about running. I’m not done with public service. But I’m not gonna do it immediately when I’m done [as mayor].”

If he does run for another office, it would violate a pledge he made after his first year in office. During a May 2012 interview with the Sun-Times, he wrote a statement in a notebook — and signed it — saying: “I Rahm Emanuel will not run for another office, ever.”

On Wednesday, in a freewheeling interview with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, Emanuel refused to weigh in on the candidates vying to replace him, except to say there are “three lanes” in the race for mayor of Chicago and that candidates need to find their lane and articulate their ideas to have any hope of winning.

Rahm Emanuel

Mayor Rahm Emanuel meets with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board Wednesday afternoon. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

He repeatedly refused to identify the mayoral candidate he believes stands the best chance of finding one of those three lanes.

With the $28 billion pension crisis and several inexperienced candidates in the race, Emanuel was asked whether he fears for the city’s future if Chicago voters make the wrong choice.

He would say only that he and his wife plan to maintain their home in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. “If I had fears, we wouldn’t live here,” he said.

Pressed for advice to his successor, he repeated what he would say at the White House.

“This is a gift. It’s really a special gift. You’ve been entrusted for the next four years to treasure that gift and use it to the best of our common good. If you don’t ever think of it as a gift, your days will be numbered,” he said.

He recalled again “what it means to be the son and grandson of an immigrant … to six times have my name on the ballot and win in a city built by immigrants. We fight. We have political brawls. But, we have a passion for our city and we love it. And this has now been entrusted to you as a gift.”

Also during Wednesday’s free-for-all, Emanuel said he was not at all insulted that Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) chose to purge himself of a surprise $20,000 contribution from the outgoing mayor amid concern it might damage his re-election chances.

“Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. … I know Rod Sawyer. I know what’s in his heart,” the mayor said.

He angrily ticked off the names of several African-American aldermen who kept the money.

As for billionaire Elon Musk’s plan to build a “Tesla-in-a-tunnel” transit line to whisk travelers between downtown and O’Hare Airport in 12 minutes, Emanuel said he’s not worried about either the SEC investigation of Musk, or Musk’s self-inflicted wounds or personal behavior.

“I want to make sure the technology works,” he said.

If his successor has other priorities and decides to kill the project? “Then you’ll just have to get on a train from Washington to Dulles to see what it feels like,” he said.

Emanuel also said the pension plan he intends to lay out in December will include “options” to soften the blow of a looming $1 billion spike in pension payments.

After unveiling a feel-good budget that holds the line on tax increases, Emanuel was asked if aldermen have the political will to raise taxes in an election year.

“I’m a really good speaker,” he said, referring to the upcoming December pension address.

“We’ll see after that.”