Second Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti revealed Saturday that he will run for mayor, marking the first major challenger to face Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the February election.
News of the decision was first posted to Fioretti's website ahead of a "big announcement" scheduled for Saturday morning.
"Four years ago, Rahm promised he was going to be tough," Fioretti said. "All we got was tough luck."
Fioretti, leader of City Council's Progressive Caucus, said earlier this week that he was "seriously considering" challenging Emanuel at the ballot box in February.
The 61-year-old alderman, who previously worried his campaign war chest wasn't outsized enough to trounce talented fund-raiser Emanuel, reported he received loads of encouragement following his late-August crowd-sourcing initiative.
"I love Chicago and I cannot stand by as the current mayor looks out for some of us and ignores the struggles of some," Fioretti said Saturday. "Chicago deserves someone who can bring the city together."
While he didn't go into specifics Saturday about his agenda, he did call for hiking the minimum wage $15 an hour, an elected school board, money for more police officers and a 1 percent commuter tax.
With Emanuel's approval rating at an all-time low, Fioretti—who has long desired the mayorship—has begun in earnest to lay the groundwork for a potential Fifth Floor take-over.
"Time and again, Alderman Fioretti has shown no backbone for making tough choices and little respect for Chicago taxpayers' pocketbooks," Emanuel's campaign spokesman, Steve Mayberry, said in a statement Saturday. "Chicago can't tax itself out of its problems. Chicago needs, and has, a strong leader who has shown that he is willing to make tough decisions."
Political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dick Simpson, says Fioretti is a significant candidate who still has some time to get his name out there.
"It could throw it into a run off and it would be clear that the mayor can be defeated," he said.
Emanuel could also face a challenge from Chicago Teachers Union Karen Lewis, who told NBC Chicago in June that she was seriously mulling a run for mayor.
Since then she's explored the idea, privately and publicly, popping up at voter meet-and-greets around town. On Monday, the outspoken, off-the-cuff Lewis poured $40,000 of her own money into her campaign fund, explaining: "It's a sign that I'm trying to raise money. People have to see that we're trying to raise money now. We have to do all kinds of other things."
While Emanuel wants to boost the minimum wage from $8.25 to $13, Fioretti and Lewis want to hike it to $15. They balked at the mayor's pact with the city's police union to get cops an 11 percent raise as well as retroactive pay, blasting the move as an election-cycle stunt.