Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor of Chicago on Tuesday, easily overwhelming five rivals to take the helm of the third-largest U.S. city as it prepares to chart a new course without the retiring Richard M. Daley.
With 86 percent of the precincts reporting, Emanuel was trouncing five opponents with 55 percent of the vote to avoid an April runoff. Emanuel needed more than 50 percent of the vote to win.
United States President Barack Obama sent his congratulations to the mayor-elect.
"As a Chicagoan and a friend, I couldn't be prouder," the president said in a statement. "Rahm will be a terrific mayor for all the people of Chicago."
Emanuel, said to be the model for the Josh Lyman character in the successful "West Wing" television series, was believed by many in Israel to be the architect of Obama's tougher stance toward Israel during his term as White House chief of staff.
Emanuel, the son of an Israeli immigrant to the U.S., served as civilian volunteer on an Israeli military base during the Persian Gulf War of 1991, according to Ira Forman of the National Jewish Democratic Council. Emanuel visited Israel last May for a private visit during which his son celebrated his bar mitzvah.
The other major candidates - former Chicago schools president Gery Chico, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and City Clerk Miguel del Valle - had hoped to force a runoff but were no match for Emanuel.
It was the city's first mayoral race in more than 60 years without an incumbent on the ballot and the first in more than two decades without Daley among the candidates. Daley and his father have led Chicago for more than 43 out of the last 56 years.
Chico had 24 percent of the vote compared to 9 percent for both del Valle and Braun. Two other lesser-known candidates each got about 1 percent.
Emanuel's win caps a campaign that included an unsuccessful legal challenge to
try to keep him off the ballot.