Rahm Emanuel opens up about decision not to seek re-election

CHICAGO — Just one day after sending shockwaves through Chicago by announcing he would not seek re-election, Mayor Rahm Emanuel sat down for a one-on-one interview with WGN’s Tahman Bradley.

Watch the full 20-minute interview here.

Emanuel appeared relaxed and relieved as he opened up about his decision not to seek a third term, saying he started discussing the matter with his family back in May. While he sought advice from political heavyweights like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Emanuel said it was ultimately a decision he made with his wife, Amy Rule.

“At the end of the day it was really Amy and I,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel did not reveal what he’d like to do with his next chapter, only that he’ll remain in public life in some way. However, when asked if he would run for president, Emanuel answered simply: "no.”

Emanuel also got candid about Chicago gun violence. As mayor, he has been adding more police to the streets and trying to boost investment in neighborhoods plagued by violence. But he also emphasized the need for the community to do its part.

“Who, as an adult, takes an 11-year-old off a basketball court, walks him 100 feet into the alley and puts a bullet in their head? That is not a policing problem.”

The Laquan McDonald shooting and release of the video seven months after Emanuel won re-election in 2015 was a turning point in his tenure and left him bruised politically. Then after a violent August weekend this year, when more than 70 people were shot, the mayor raised eyebrows when he said a "shortage of values" contributed to the issue. While that message was condemned by some, Emanuel is not backing down.

“What I was talking about was the importance of family and faith,” he said Wednesday.

As he winds down his time at City Hall, Emanuel is stressing his achievements in recruiting businesses and helping children.

“Kids [and their] education and all the other complementary investments from your libraries and your park system and your public health, fit into that,” he said.  "[I have had] more corporate relocations than any other city in America five years in a row. [And] more investments overseas in the city of Chicago than any other city in America.”

It’s a crowded field to replace Emanuel. After enduring months of attacks, Emanuel took a swipe at the candidates, saying he doubts his successor has come forward.

“The field, absent me, doesn’t stop other people now thinking that they don’t want to get in,” he said. “And you can interpret that for what it is. You’re really are looking for a person who has judgement, can learn and has character.”

Emanuel continues to look over a plan to borrow billions to pour into Chicago’s pension funds, and said he’s still looking for good ideas on that front, and not ready to announce the plan.

On how he decided not to run for re-election

“At the end of the day it was really Amy and I,” Emanuel said. “And the kids gave me their opinion and sometimes it changed. And I sought the advice of President Obama and President Clinton because they’re important people in my life whose counsel I sought. David Axelrod. Paul Begala. Pastors in this city. … At the end of the day it was personal decision.”

On saying there is a "shortage of values" after a violent August weekend:

“I stand by that. Who gives a 13-year-old a gun to take to a basketball court in Garfield Park that has a program? … Let me quote Rev. Jackson. What did he mean when he said ‘You may have been born in the ghetto but the ghetto wasn’t born in you?’ What did he mean? Everything is a part of this. Yes, the police department. Yes, investments in children. Yes, investments in opportunities. Yes, in a criminal justice system that holds you accountable. Yes, in bigotry and racism. All of it. But we can’t take and think we’re going to solve a problem if we don’t also deal with things that hurt.”

Politically, did you ever recover from the release of the Laquan McDonald video?

“That’s a fair question but not the only question. … There’s 100 years we’ve tried seven different times along our frame as a city to reform the police department, to reflect what we want it to be. I’m determined to make that a lesson where this time we get right. … We’re not the only city that’s faced the issue of police and community relations.”

Isn’t it about trust? People think there was a cover up, people lost trust in you.

“We’ll see if I earned it back. It’s not a static thing. In the same way that sometimes people watch WGN and sometimes then they don’t. …  I would just say to you is that issue is there and the question is, did I prove something in that period of time after that to build that? We’ll deal with whether that thing that was laid at my feet is true at a separate time. But that’s not a static thing. It’s an ever-evolving organic thing.”