Chicago must re-elect Rahm Emanuel as mayor, or else the city could collapse into bankruptcy and wind up like Detroit, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) warned Monday.
At a ceremonial event for Casimir Pulaski Day in Chicago, Kirk said Emanuel's challengers "don't have the gravitas with the bond market."
"I would worry about the value of the Chicago debt if Rahm was not re-elected," Kirk told reporters. "It’s a concern if we have some of the less responsible people running against him.”
“None of them could command the respect of the bond market," he continued. "A collapse of Chicago debt, which already happened with Detroit, I think would soon follow if somebody who was really inexperienced and irresponsible replaced Rahm.”
Just days earlier, Chicago moved closer to a "fiscal free fall" after Moody's Investors Service downgraded the city's bond market rating to Baa2 -- two steps above junk status, Reuters reports.
Though Kirk spoke of "people" and never mentioned Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia by name, Garcia is the incumbent mayor's only challenger in the April 7 runoff election.
Kirk repeatedly dodged the question as to whether his statements were an endorsement for Emanuel, instead telling reporters, "I think that Rahm's re-election is essential to maintaining the value of Chicago's debt market. You’ve got to have a strong, capable leader. The people that I’ve seen running against him are not that leader.”
Emanuel's failure to secure 50 percent-plus-one vote in the Feb. 24 mayoral election was seen as a huge political embarrassment to the incumbent mayor who outspent challengers 12-1 and counted President Barack Obama and other top lawmakers among his vocal supporters.
Emanuel's inability to cinch a clear victory marked the first time an incumbent mayor has been forced into a runoff since Chicago mayoral election rules changed 20 years ago. Emanuel won 45 percent of the vote to Garcia's 35 percent.
Garcia, a longtime politician who once worked with Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington, found success tapping into the anti-incumbent sentiment that has been strong among Chicago's working class. Garcia has been endorsed by groups like MoveOn, as well as noted Emanuel foe Karen Lewis, the powerful Chicago Teacher's Union president.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Harold Washington was the Chicago's only black mayor. Washington was the only black mayor elected by voters; Gene Sawyer, who is black, was made mayor by the Chicago City Council after Washington died in office.