By John Dodge
CHICAGO (CBS) -- Thrown into a bruising run-off election, Rahm Emanuel scored a hard-fought win for a second term, defeating Jesus "Chuy" Garcia on Tuesday, thus ending a mayoral campaign never before seen in Chicago.
With 95 percent of the vote counted, Emanuel held a 55.5 percent to 44.5 percent edge over Garcia. CBS 2 exit polling data from Edison Research projected the final margin to be 55 percent to 45 percent.
"Thank you Chicago!" Emanuel declared in his victory speech, shortly after 9 p.m.
"I want to congratulate Chuy Garcia for running an excellent race. He clearly loves the city of Chicago."
Emanuel, politically damaged by his decision to close more than 50 Chicago Public Schools and fighting the perception that he was out of touch with voters and only focused on pleasing well-heeled business connections, failed to win 50 percent of the vote in February's election.
CAMPAIGN 2015: FULL CHICAGO ELECTION RESULTS
That result led to the first ever run-off election in Chicago, with the Chicago Teacher's Union, angered over the school closings, providing much of the momentum to Garcia, especially in the early days following February's first round.
In the end, Emanuel proved to be too well-funded for the grass-roots campaign of Garcia. Emanuel also effectively attacked Garcia, who had a difficult time explaining details of how he would carry out his agenda, in a series of campaign commercials.
CBS 2/Edison exit polling, based on 1,300 interviews, supported that outcome. Voters preferred Emanuel's experience and more clearly articulated plan for the city. Garcia polled better when voters were asked which candidate could bring about more change.
"If you Look at entire election cycle, Rahm survived," said Jesse Sharkey, of the Chicago Teacher's Union and Garcia supporter. "He didn't conquer it. The election cycle good for city because of debate about schools, policies to support neighborhoods.
"The mayor had to change. He put on a fuzzy sweater, learned how to listen. We would have loved to won but in the end we made some progress."
Around 8:15 p.m. Garcia called Emanuel to concede and congratulated him on his victory.
"We may have missed by a little but you put me here tonight," Garcia told his supporters.
Based on initial ward-by-ward breakdowns, Garcia carried predominately Hispanic portions of the city, while Emanuel appeared to regain the African American vote that he lost in the more crowded February contest. The mayor also dominated the lakefront and North Side wards, as expected.
Polls opened at 6 a.m. across Chicago in the first mayoral runoff since Chicago began using nonpartisan elections in the race for mayor in 1995.
As voters headed to the polls, Emanuel officially started making his rounds at 10 a.m., when he helped man phones at a Bronzeville campaign office, encouraging potential voters to get out to the polls.
"To quote a famous organizer by the name of Marsha Emanuel, my mother, just when you think you've made your last phone call, you've got 10 more. Just when you think you've knocked on the last door, go across the street, you knock on 10 more doors. Okay? Because this future, the children of the city of Chicago, are worth fighting for," he said.
Garcia had breakfast Cozy Corner Restaurant & Pancake House in Edison Park with Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), after greeting commuters at the nearby Jefferson Park stop on the CTA Blue Line. He rubbed the nose of the Thomas Jefferson statue for good luck
He later headed to the Merchandise Mart stop on the Brown Line to shake hands with potential supporters.
Most voters in Chicago said casting their ballot was a quick process, being that there are only one or two races in which to vote.
Approximately 175,000 Chicago voters had cast ballots during early voting or by mail, the most ever for a municipal election.
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