Gery ChicoAfter Election Day, Gery Chico—who fell short of a runoff with Rahm Emanuel—stayed out of the spotlight for a while. The former Daley chief of staff, who once ran the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Park District, was the only candidate who even had a chance of beating Rahm in this year’s race for mayor. An attorney with a lucrative private practice, Chico had attracted lots of important endorsements—Luis Gutiérrez and Ed Burke, for starters. And though he ran a meticulously organized and gargantually energetic campaign—he was out every day, both campaigning and spending three to five hours fundraising—he didn’t even come close, losing to Emanuel by some 30 points. Having covered Chico closely during this last campaign, I believe he longs to run for office again. Here, some highlights from our telephone conversation Tuesday, his first one-on-one interview with a reporter since Election Day:
CF: Do you see elective office in your future—running for mayor in four years, for example?
GC: I don’t have any particular plans at this moment; I’m evaluating a number of options, and I’ll have a decision on one of those shortly.
CF: What are the options? Are you talking about running for another office?
I’m going to hold those private for a moment because there are conversations going on with a few different people, and I want to give some of those people involved a chance to do what they need to do. I’m not going to go into [the topic of another campaign] because I’m not concluded yet on some of the decisions that I have to make regarding different options.
Who is your alderman and congressman?
Bob Fioretti and Danny Davis. They’re fine public officials.
Are you planning on running for [Davis’s] 7th congressional seat?
I think they’re fine public officials.
Will you have a role in the Emanuel administration?
That’s up to the mayor; it’s not up to me. I’ve had a lot of conversations with Rahm, and I’ve enjoyed them. We’ve shared ideas, and I have found him to be quite pleasant to work with. He called me a couple of days after the election, which was very nice, and we had a talk over the phone because I was out of town. When I came back, I went over to see him at his campaign office. We’ve talked a couple of times since about education matters.
Did he seek your input when he selected the new school superintendent?
Not particularly on that. We had talked about education policy more than people. I’m more than happy to give my advice if it’s sought
Are feelings too raw between you and Rahm for you to have a formal role in his administration?
No, no, no, people are adults. It’s like professional baseball players—you play very hard during the game against one another competing to win but after the game you’re cordial. I offered to help Rahm Emanuel. I was sincere about it. He knows it, and if he needs me to help with something, I’m prepared to help him.
Back to Election Day. Were you surprised by the numbers?
I thought there was going to be a runoff between me and Rahm; that’s what the polling was showing. We knew it would be close. We had always expected to be in the mid-20s; maybe if things had really broken our way robustly, maybe hit 30. But we kind of hit target at 24, 25, and we thought Rahm would come in high 40s. I think people expected Carol Moseley Braun to do better than she did, and that didn’t happen. It just wasn’t our night.
I noticed on election night, that your wife, Sunny, looked really disappointed. Then the two of you disappeared for a while.
My family was naturally sad at the outcome. I went with my wife, we went out West and did some traveling. We hadn’t had any quality time for a long time, so it was kind of a catch-up.
Do you have any advice for Mayor Emanuel?
I think Rahm has a great gut. I think he’s already off to a very good start. I like a lot of the talent he surrounded himself with. As any of us who ran for office know, the people of Chicago need help. They need a government that’s under control financially. We’re going to need to have a city where you can really have a really good chance of getting a job, and we’re going to need streets that are predictably safe in every neighborhood. I think Rahm will find that [out] about the people, and I’m very optimistic about the future.
Photograph: Chicago Tribune