Emanuel won the election with 55 percent of the vote, meaning the race for the city's boss is finished -- no runoff needed.
"Thank you Chicago," Emanuel said in his victory speech, pledging to work with the city council and community leaders to build a stronger Chicago. "You sure know how to make a guy feel at home. ... What makes this so gratifying is that it was built on votes from every corner of the city. "
The president sent his congratulations just after Emanuel finished speaking.
"I want to extend my congratulations to Rahm Emanuel on a well-deserved victory tonight," President Obama said. "As a Chicagoan and a friend, I couldn't be prouder. Rahm will be a terrific mayor for all the people of Chicago.
It wasn't an easy road for Emanuel.
After leaving his post as White House Chief of Staff in early October (he recieved a dead carp as a parting gift) he headed back to what he called his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. He aimed to pursue the job he coveted since at least April when he appeared on Charlie Rose and made his ambitions known.
But Emanuel arrived to find that he wasn't welcomed by everyone as a resident of the city.
A number of citizen objecters, and at least one bought-and-paid-for election lawyer, filed objections to Emanuel's eligibility to run for the post. They challenged him at the Chicago Board of Elections and lost; they challenged him in Circuit Court and lost. Then they challenged him in Appelate Court and won.
But the State Supreme Court overturned the ruling and allowed Emanuel on the ballot without a moment to spare.
Where ballot challenges were a difficulty for Emanuel, money was not.
The former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman outraised his closest rival by a margin of almost 5-to-1. After a January finance report filing deadline, Emanuel had raised more than $10 million.
That allowed Emanuel to run numerous campaign advertisements in high profile slots, like the NFC Championship game between the Bears and the Packers.
His opponents relied on community forums and meet-and-greets to get their message out, but Emanuel largely avoided the public conversations and instead leaned on strategic ad buys. He was roundly criticized for the strategy, but it apparently worked.
His closest competition, Gery Chico, finished with 24 percent. Chico and Emanuel became heated rivals in the final weeks of February.
Emanuel takes office in May.