Former Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy is still undecided about whether to run for mayor in 2019, but he says that he feels he can do a better job in leading the city than the current mayor.
“The best way to put it is that I’m a public servant. I’m not a politician,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from people like Rudy Guiliani, Cory Booker, and yes, Rahm Emanuel. I think one of the things is that I can unpack a problem, put it back together, and learn how to make it better. That is not what we are doing in Chicago.”
With Emanuel up for re-election in 2019, numerous names have floated as potential contenders to unseat him. While some, including former candidate Commissioner Chuy Garcia, have moved on to other chances at office, McCarthy’s potential candidacy has turned plenty of heads and generated plenty of interest even in the absence of a formal declaration of interest by the former superintendent.
“It’s definitely gained momentum, let’s put it that way,” he said. “This isn’t something I would have initiated on my own. Other people have been pushing me in this direction. It got to the point where they gathered more steam, put together the exploratory committee, and they’re raising money. We’re going to do some in-depth polling, which will help make the decision one way or the other.”
McCarthy believes that crime is a significant issue in Chicago, but also feels that violence is just one part of a complex web of problems that needs to be addressed in the city.
“All the issues are intertwined,” he said. “There’s a study that shows for every shooting we’re losing 70 people from our population. I think I know how to fix a lot of these problems that we have.”
Despite decreasing shooting numbers this year, McCarthy says that there is still plenty more than can be done to stem the tide of violence that has been the subject of a slew of national press.
“In the two year period since I was fired, there were 1401 people murdered in the city of Chicago,” he said. “If you remember in 2013 and 2014, we were on the verge of breaking 400 people in the other direction. That’s a 70 percent increase in two years. We compare these statistics year over year, but the bottom line is that we still own last year.”
McCarthy moved to Chicago when Mayor Emanuel chose him to be the city’s police superintendent in 2011. After serving in the position for four years, he was fired by Emanuel in the aftermath of the Laquan McDonald shooting by former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke.
“I saw the video, and I knew the officer had a problem,” McCarthy says of the shooting. “I was not pleased at all. That’s probably what I should say about it. My staff knows how displeased I was.”
That displeasure may have led some to question whether McCarthy had the right temperament for the mayor’s job, but he dismissed those criticisms.
“If I have a difficult temper, it’s probably for a good reason,” he said. “When I give a direction that’s not being followed….you’re right. I probably had a difficult temper after I watched the Laquan McDonald video. I think I have proven (myself) in crisis management.
“I’ve been through floods, hurricanes, blackouts, riots, World Trade Center, so I know about crisis management. I’m proud of my coolness during the NATO event, and I think that calmed the officers and had a great impact on the situation.”
Despite the differences between the two men, McCarthy says that he wouldn’t run for mayor with the idea of getting back at the man who fired him in 2015.
“Absolutely not. I haven’t attacked the mayor. I’ve never done it,” he said. “I’ve talked about things that are wrong, but I’ve never gone after him. That’s the way I want to do it if I pursue this. Whatever my feelings are, I’d rather be a professional.”
McCarthy says that he will likely make his decision on a potential run by the end of January, which would leave him with just over a year to campaign before the 2019 election.