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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel listens during a Chicago City Council meeting Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in Chicago. / Brian Jackson AP

CHICAGO ?? Even with overall crime rates in decline, a wave of gun violence here is ramping up the political pressure on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as he prepares for a reelection campaign.

Emanuel, President Obama's former White House Chief of Staff, will not face the voters until February. But the city's bloody summer, including a Fourth of July weekend shooting spree that left more than a dozen dead and scores more wounded, is causing some outcry.

"If Emanuel ran unopposed, he would lose," said Charles Lipson, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago. "His best chance is that somebody runs against him and there is nobody popular who looks like they will."

Emanuel is is occasionally touted as a potential candidate for statewide or even national office but has yet to attempt a try at either. He first made his name as an adviser to President Bill Clinton and later as a Congressman from the same Chicago-area district once held by now-imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Chicago has more annual murders than larger cities like New York and Los Angeles, where crime has dropped even more dramatically.

Murders are actually down according to data collected by the Chicago Police Department. From January 1 to July 15, the Windy City's tally stood at 198, compared to 209 in the same period last year and 279 in 2012. Total felonies, which also include sexual assault, robbery, aggravated battery, burglary and the like are off 15% from 2013.

Emanuel's office says that he is focused on tackling the crime problem rather than worrying about how the political fallout may hurt him.

"Mayor Emanuel has said there will be a time for politics, but what's important today is continuing to make progress so every child has the opportunity for a bright future and everyone in every neighborhood can enjoy the same sense of safety," said his spokesman, Adam Collins.

"Chicago Police are putting more officers on the streets in summer months, and the City is giving young people alternatives to the street through summer jobs and prevention programs and partnering with ministers and local leaders, because everyone has a role to play in the safety of our city."

On Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he would assign seven more Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents to the agency's Chicago office, adding to the 45 already on the ground here.

One Chicago Alderman ?? Joe Moore, who represents part of the far North Side ?? spent part of a recent weekend mopping up blood off the sidewalk in his 49th Ward.

Moore had been meeting with constituents on Saturday when he emerged to see a teenager shooting at a crowd of what he described as "fleeing youth." By the time it was over, 28-year-old William Lewis was dead. Police later arrested a local teenager and charged him with first-degree murder and other crimes. Lewis was not even the intended target but was merely waiting for a bus, according to police.

"I have been to crime scenes and seen blood and shell casings," Moore said. "But I had never actually seen a gun used in the commission of a crime. I will never forget it."

Moore and his wife later returned to the scene with bleach and a brush and assisted a nearby resident to scrub the sidewalk where the shooting occurred.

The incident was heavily played up on the local news, especially since it took place in a neighborhood largely perceived as safe and well away from the South and West Sides, the usual sites for most of Chicago's gun carnage. The coverage only added to Emanuel's political headaches, which already include standoffs with the city's powerful unions and an ongoing budget crisis.

At the moment, the only potential opposition candidate with any kind of following is Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who bested the mayor in a bitter strike battle two years ago. A recent poll conducted for the Chicago Sun-Times had Lewis leading Emanuel; an earlier poll had him maintaining comfortable leads against various comers.

One highly-touted possible opponent who might have given Emanuel a run for his money was Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who bowed out of the race on Tuesday.

Emanuel "has to be concerned that even people living in safe neighborhoods are experiencing this level of fear of crime." said Alan Gitelson, a professor of political science at Loyola University Chicago. "But he has a considerable amount of time before the election and is one of the most of the most sophisticated politicians and campaigners in the U.S. He also has a considerable amount of money."

Thom Serafin, who runs an eponymous political consulting and public relations firm in Chicago, is sanguine about the Mayor's prospects.

"The perception is that the crime numbers are up, even though they aren't," he said. "Managing [those] perceptions is critical but when you get down to the reality, he has the resources -- $5 million, $7 million, $10 million ?? and you would need a strong personality and a real movement to beat him."

Alderman Moore noted that while Chicago has a far higher crime rate than "most cities in the Western world," the annual death toll is half of what it was 20 years ago even if it now gets "hyperbolic" news coverage.

The Mayor and the police are "doing the best they can," he said. "There may be some fallout, but I have been around for a long time and survived politically through a time that was much more violent," he noted.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Chicago crime poses political headaches

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