Rahm Emanuel has never given a damn about his reputation. The short-fused Chicago mayor is an angry little monster, and he's happy that way. But that mobster disposition that earned him the nickname "Rahmbo" may finally be coming back to haunt him as he faces reelection this year. Chicagoans are frustrated with the former White House chief of staff, and a crowded field of candidates is chomping at the bit to oust him when voters go to the polls this February.
Most people assume that Emanuel—who has a $9 million campaign war chest and a long list of famous friends who owe him favors—was unbeatable. But Bob Fioretti, a middle-aged alderman with a Donald Trump-style head of hair, believes he can slay the giant. After formally filing a petition late last month to challenge Emanuel in next year's race, Fioretti has been making public battle cries against the mayor, attacking Rahm for his record on jobs and crime.
With his approval ratings sinking and a seemingly unending and systemic crime problem, Emanuel's reelection has been looking less and less inevitable. With labor leader Karen Lewis's decision not to run for mayor, Fioretti is now the most high-profile challenger who can take on Emanuel from the left. But can he win? VICE caught up with Fioretti last week to talk more about his beef with Rahm, and why he thinks he can topple Obama's former right-hand man.
VICE: Why are you the person to beat Emanuel?
Fioretti: Four years ago, Rahm came into town and said he was going to get tough and all we got was tough luck. The mayor's policies have divided Chicagoans. We have two different cities. And we need to take things into a new direction and make one city. I believe with the help of the citizens we will become mayor and we will occupy the fifth floor [of City Hall].
You've acknowledged that it's going to be near impossible to match Emanuel's financing. How do you plan on addressing that?
I think [the] war chest that he has is obscene, absolutely obscene. He's brought Washingtonian politics to the city of Chicago. With what he has, he can feed thousands of homeless in the city of Chicago. He can give bulletproof vests to every police officer. He can open mental health clinics. And instead, he's already spent $2 million as of this date—on TV ads. We will raise the resources necessary to strategically fight, get our message out to the people and keep doing what we've been doing—knocking on doors in every ward and every community.
Do you think Karen Lewis exposed the mayor's vulnerability? Did that influence your decision to run?
I had had discussions with her before and I think she did help bring out some of the problems of this leadership, if you call it that. This [Emanuel's] is a leadership that divides this city and ignores the struggles of the majority of its citizens. The access to City Hall is by special interests and big money friends, not the small person.
How did Emanuel create this division?
I think when he closed fifty schools in our communities, when he fails to make better streets, [when he] closes mental health clinics. This is not the mayor for this city.
Why are so many candidates jockeying to take Emanuel's spot?
People want change. They want new leadership and the folks that have filed come from all different parts of this city. I think it shows folks crying out for new leadership now.
How will the recent gubernatorial election affect the election?
I think we need a very transparent, open and accountable administration. What I've seen from this administration, that does not happen. And in the gubernatorial race, I think we'll see changes but I'm very concerned that Rahm Emanuel's good friend [Bruce Rauner], the person who made him a multimillionaire is now occupying the governor's mansion.
Do you think that could negatively impact the financial future of Chicago?
Not only that but the state of Illinois. Absolutely.
You take issue with the mayor's policies on crime and education. How do you specifically plan on targeting those issues?
First of all, as to crime, I want to put more police officers on the street. But we can't police ourselves out of the problem we have. We have to reopen our mental health clinics. We have to bring jobs into our neighborhoods, which is crucial. That's what we need to do here. At the same time, we need a holistic approach towards crime. We need to have very active and involved community policing in our city. We cannot disassociate crime from poverty, lack of education, lack of hope in our city. That's what this administration tends to gloss over. As for schools, when [Emanuel] closed fifty schools, he turned his back on our communities, communities of color, black and brown. And those communities then suffer from the closures.
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