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Sizing up the Race for Mayor: Political newcomer plans to challenge Emanuel

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Challengers have been slow to jump in the mayoral race against Rahm Emanuel, but WGN’s Gaynor Hall introduces us to a political newcomer who thinks she can take on the current mayor.

Amara Enyia’s list of academic credentials is impressive. She has a master’s degree in education, a law degree, and a Ph.D. in educational policy studies. She worked briefly in former Mayor Richard Daley’s office. She has worked as a community activist, and now at age 31, she says she is running for mayor of Chicago.

“I think the people are ready for a different kind of leadership,” said Enyia.  “So, the message we talk about is a unifying message. It says regardless of your race, your ethnicity, your geography, that you are valued in this city and we can move in another direction.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel cruised to victory in 2011. During his first term, from school closings to continued crime problems, the list of complaints from critics has been long.

But the list of candidates aiming to challenge the deep-pocketed mayor is short, so far. There is former Chicago Alderman Robert Shaw and longtime Chicago Police Officer Frederick Collins.

Enyia believes she can win.

“I think the mayor’s vision is disconnected from the reality of Chicago and what makes Chicago a great city. It’s what happened with the school closings, what happened with the level of enmity between city government and the people of this city. It was the privatization of our transportation system with Ventra. It was this rapid shift towards privatizing public assets. It was the attack against public sector unions,” said Enyia.

A Chicago Sun-Times poll released earlier this month, found only 29-percent of those polled would vote for Emanuel. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was right at his heels, even though she will only say that she is running for the job she currently has.

WGN’s political analyst Paul Lisnek says Emanuel is in a vulnerable position.

“I don’t think there’s any question that Rahm Emanuel is the guy to beat. He’s not incredibly popular right now,” said Lisnek. “The question is who has a chance against him?”

Enyia is the American-born daughter of Nigerian activists. She grew up in the south suburbs and currently lives in the Garfield Park neighborhood. She says the city can find the money to invest in schools, people, and neighborhoods and she believes she’s the person to do it.

“I’m just a woman who has never had limitations and has never seen limitations in anything,” said Enyia.

Enyia says she already has hundreds of volunteers and she has been on a “Unity Tour” getting her message out to voters across the city. A few other names circulating as potential mayoral candidates include Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th).  Candidates can’t officially file until November.

The election is Feb. 24th, 2015.

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