Chicago (AFP) - Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel, once a star of the Democratic party and chief of staff to former US President Barack Obama, will not seek a third term, he announced Tuesday.
In a tear-filled, surprise announcement, Emanuel told a hastily-arranged news conference that he would not run again for the highest office in the nation's third largest city, and the hometown of his former boss Obama.
"I've decided not to seek re-election," Emanuel said. "This has been the job of a lifetime, but it is not a job for a lifetime."
Emanuel has struggled with unpopularity in a city facing a stubborn gun violence epidemic that has led to most murders of any US city.
His announcement also came a day before the start of the murder trial of a white police officer charged with the controversial fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager.
Emanuel is accused of mishandling the case and covering up details of the shooting for more than a year.
Still, the mayor's decision stunned the city's political establishment, as he had already raised millions in anticipation of a tough campaign ahead of the February 2019 election.
"(Emanuel) would have had a very hard race," University of Illinois political science professor Dick Simpson told WGN television.
"But, he certainly was the leading candidate."
Emanuel once was rumored to aspire to even higher office. The former Democratic operative had worked in both former president Bill Clinton's administration in the 1990s and was the first chief of staff for Obama.
He also was a three-term congressman from Illinois, and served in leadership roles for the party in the legislative chamber.
"Rahm Emanuel has been a tireless and brilliant public servant," Obama said in a statement.
"Chicago is better and stronger for his leadership, and I was a better President for his wise counsel at a particularly perilous time for our country," he added.