Rush celebrated his 52nd birthday Monday by formally announcing his bid to oust Mayor Richard M. Daley, a fellow Democrat. As more than 200 supporters cheered, Rush accused Daley of running a machine-style government that benefits an elite few.
"We must reclaim our city from those who manage it as a personal fiefdom for the benefit of a small group of cronies," Rush said. "I declare today that we must move all of Chicago forward."
He may face an uphill battle. Daley has gained popularity during his almost 10 years in office by helping revitalize downtown and leading a nationally praised drive to improve the city's schools.
Rush accused Daley of putting all the city's resources into rebuilding downtown while ignoring the city's deteriorating South and West sides - home to many blacks and Hispanics.
An adviser to Daley, who has yet to announce whether he will seek a third term, countered by saying the mayor has worked hard to spur development throughout Chicago.
"Mayor Daley ... has compiled a record of accomplishment in every area of the city that he should be proud of," Avis LaVelle said.
Rush is hoping to follow the late Harold Washington, who in 1983 beat Daley in the Democratic primary and went on to become the city's first black mayor. Washington stunned the vestiges of the Chicago political machine that had kept Daley's father, Richard J. Daley, in the mayor's office from 1955 through 1976.
During his speech, Rush called Washington "one of my personal heroes."
Don Rose, a Chicago political consultant who has worked for both parties, said Daley has neutralized many of the Democratic factions that voted against him in 1983. He also said Rush lacks the charisma Washington had to unify the black community.
"If the election were held tomorrow, it would be an overwhelming win (for Daley)," Rose said.
Rush, who once served six months in prison for illegal possession of firearms, was first elected to Congress in 1992. Since then, he has promoted gun control legislation and loans for +businesses in inner cities. This month he was re-elected with 87 percent of the vote.
The February primary will be the heavily Democratic city's first nonpartisan mayoral election. If no candidate receives a majority in the primary, the top two vote-getters will face a runoff in April.
©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed