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Chicago Voters Head To Polls To Replace Mayor Daley

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Chicago Voters Head To Polls To Replace Mayor Daley

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Chicago Voters Head To Polls To Replace Mayor Daley

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For the first time in more than two decades, voters in Chicago are going to the polls today to select a mayor who is not named Richard Daley. Daley is not seeking a record seventh term. In fact, Daley and his father, with only one interruption, have ruled the city since the 1950s. Now former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is the favorite in today's election. But his rivals predict there will be no clear-cut winner and that a runoff is likely. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY: Here's what all the candidates running for mayor of Chicago want to do today - get 50 percent plus one more vote. That's what it will take to claim outright victory. So during the last full day of campaigning, the candidates crisscrossed the city. Rahm Emanuel started at a familiar place -one of the city's elevated train stations.

Mr. RAHM EMANUEL (Mayoral candidate, Chicago): It's either 109 or 110 L stops since we started.

CORLEY: While the L train rumbled overhead, Emanuel shook hands, posed for pictures and continued to talk about changes he says are needed to get the city's dismal economy in shape. The latest poll shows him with 49 percent of the support of likely voters, though he cautiously avoids making predictions.

Mr. EMANUEL: That's their decision on the election. My goal is to make sure that they know I've been honest about what the challenges are, honest about what the policy choices are.

CORLEY: Emanuel won a court fight seeking to knock him off the ballot based on his residency. He's raised millions of dollars, dominating the airwaves with commercials. One features President Barack Obama praising Emanuel. And at the L stop, Leatrice Jarvis says that's good enough for her.

Ms. LEATRICE JARVIS: If Obama back him, I'm a back him.

CORLEY: But Emanuel wasn't the only candidate wooing commuters. Traveling from stop to stop on the L, former school board chief Gery Chico had a message too.

Mr. GERY CHICO (Mayoral Candidate, Chicago): Throw all your polls away.

CORLEY: And in a city where machine politics and get out the vote efforts are the stuff of legend, Chico, who is a distant second in the polls, says his organization is ready to go.

Mr. CHICO: We're hoping to have a couple thousand people working on the streets in the precincts, getting their voters out. We've already done quite a bit of work on phone banking.

CORLEY: A former chief of staff to Mayor Daley, Chico calls himself a guy from Chicago's neighborhoods.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

Mr. CHICO: Rahm grew up in suburban safety and privilege. Maybe that's why Rahm has a plan that hits our working families...

CORLEY: Political analyst and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington says the candidates scrambling to fight for another day have put a dent in the expectation that Emanuel will run away with the election.

Ms. LAURA WASHINGTON (Columnist, Chicago Sun-Times): No one's really been able to lay a glove on him in any meaningful way.

CORLEY: Doesn't mean they don't continue to try.

Unidentified People: Carol, Carol, Carol.

Carol Moseley Braun made history when she became the first black female to win election to the U.S. Senate. Her chanting supporters hope that on this date, the same day that Harold Washington won the Democratic mayoral primary 28 years ago, that Braun will again make history. She took aim at millionaires Emanuel and Chico, saying she had never used her office for personal gain.

Ms. CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN (Mayoral Candidate, Chicago): Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, right? Both of them using the public trust to enrich themselves personally.

CORLEY: Braun, who was selected as a consensus black candidate, hasn't raised much money. Neither has the fourth major candidate - City Clerk Miguel Del Valle. He refused corporate and large donations. When asked during an event at his campaign office if he thought this race for mayor would go beyond today, his answer?

Mr. MIGUEL DEL VALLE (Mayoral Candidate, Chicago): Yes, I think so.

(Soundbite of cheering)

CORLEY: Del Valle says debates have increased his viability. There are two lesser known candidates running for mayor as well - so six candidates in all, making that 50 percent plus one threshold a little harder to reach.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.�

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