UPDATED October 14, 2010 5:48 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) —U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez surprised supporters Thursday by announcing he’s not entering the race for mayor of Chicago. The veteran congressman said he can’t abandon his leadership role in the fight for immigration reform.
“I love Chicago. I’ve reached out to other candidates today to tell them I’m not running and to wish them well,” Gutierrez said Thursday afternoon.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports that even the closest of Gutierrez’s supporters weren’t told of his decision until 20 minutes before he announced it.
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Whether it was his commitment to immigration reform or certain family issues he wrestled with, the result was the same.
Supporters showed up to Gutierrez’s 3 p.m. announcement carrying signs and banners pledging their support for his expected campaign for mayor, only to have their hopes dashed when he said he wasn’t running.
“It is not easy to walk away from the possibility and the opportunity of leading this first-class city. It is a difficult and painful decision,” Gutierrez said. “At the same time, I believe the people of the city of Chicago deserve someone that isn’t going to do it half-heartedly, that isn’t going to have half of their interest somewhere else and the other half in the city of Chicago.”
It was the third time in five years that Gutierrez has flirted with the idea of running for mayor, only to back away at the last minute.
Other candidates for mayor rose quickly to praise him and his commitment to immigration reform.
Gery Chico, a longtime aide to Mayor Richard M. Daley, said, “This is a fight that has to be fought.”
City Clerk Miguel Del Valle, the first person to officially announce a campaign for mayor, said “Luis has become the number one leader on this issue at the national level.”
Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who is also a former congressman, also praised is onetime colleague.
“While he has announced that he is not running for Mayor, he will continue to be a respected leader with a powerful voice in our community,” Emanuel said in a written statement.
When Gutierrez was asked who he might support, he praised several official and potential candidates for mayor, though he consistently mentioned Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart first.
Asked if it was important for him to endorse another Latino candidate, Gutierrez said, “I think it’s important to support the best candidate for the city of Chicago.”
“Look, if I learned anything of campaigning with Harold Washington, the mayor of the city of Chicago, it’s that Chicago is a rainbow, of colors, of ethnicities, of nationalities, of languages,” he added. “If you’re truly going to be respectful to a process, an electoral process, color, ethnicity and nationality can have nothing to do with it.”
Gutierrez became the second high profile politician with significant support to say “no thanks” to a run for mayor.
The other is Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose name seems to come up whenever there’s a big job open.
“I have been approached, for a whole variety of other opportunities. And for the same reasons that I didn’t pursue those, I have no plans, I have no intention to pursue running for mayor,” Madigan said Thursday morning. “I hope to be reelected and serve as your Attorney General.”
Madigan said there were no circumstances she could think of that would change her mind about running for mayor.
“If my intent was or my desire was to run for mayor, I would let you know that and I would be up-front about that,” Madigan said. “My desire is to serve as attorney general again. It’s a job where I’ve been able to protect children, protect women, protect consumers, homeowners and ot’s what I want to continue to do.”
Asked if she would pledge to serve the entire four years of her term as attorney general if she is reelected, Madigan said, “God willing, yes.”
Madigan is expected to easily win a 3rd term as attorney general. She’s also thought to be eyeing higher office, maybe not this time, but soon.