By Joshua Spivak
The opinions expressed are his own.
Perplexed by Rahm Emanuel’s decision to quit as White House chief of staff, arguably the second most powerful political position in the country, in order to run for mayor of Chicago?
You’re not alone. Even Emanuel certainly hasn’t provided any real insight into why he is making the jump. If he’s hoping to further his political career beyond the Windy City, it is a strange decision. Recent history shows that a big city mayoralty is usually the end of the line.
Over the last half century, few of the mayors of America’s largest cities have had a political career after being mayor. Only three managed to be elected either governor or senator — Phoenix’s Jack Williams, San Diego’s Peter Wilson, who served as both governor and senator, and Philly’s Ed Rendell.
Three others managed to be appointed to a cabinet position — San Jose’s Norm Mineta, Dallas’ Ron Kirk and San Antonio’s Henry Cisneros. Two, Mineta and Dallas’ Earle Cabell, went to the House and a few went to the state legislature or back to the city council, but for the vast majority it was the end of their public career.
The top five cities — New York, LA, Chicago, Houston and Phoenix — are almost a complete shut out in promoting a political career. Only Phoenix’s mayor, Jack Williams, was elected as Arizona’s governor in 1966. Phoenix does have one other noteworthy former mayor, Terry Goddard, now the current Arizona attorney general and the Democratic nominee for governor. But he, like the former mayor of Houston who is the gubernatorial nominee in Texas, is behind in the polls.