Rahm Emanuel lightens up in final debate

Rahm Emanuel: Losing finger changed me
Rahm Emanuel: Losing finger changed me

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Rahm Emanuel: Losing finger changed me 01:03

Chicago (CNN)Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants you to know: He's a stand-up guy.

That was the main theme of Emanuel's pitch to voters Tuesday night during his final debate with challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in advance of the April 7 mayoral runoff.
When Garcia suggested decisions Emanuel made during his time on the board of mortgage giant Freddie Mac contributed to the recession, Emanuel joked: "Single-handedly, I ushered in the recession...only you and my mother think that."
Emanuel accused Garcia of "promising everything to everybody, like Hanukkah Harry" by promising to both fix the city's financial morass and offer new police and school programs. He went on to evoke his grandmother's saying in the face of proposals that were similarly too good to be true.
    "What ends up happening is like what my grandmother used to say—'such a deal!'" he scoffed.
    Another scene-stealing moment came after moderator Phil Ponce questioned Garcia about his son's alleged gang affiliation. Garcia said his son is now a chef and that he's "turned his life around," but Emanuel interjected in his defense.
    "I actually don't think this is a fair line of questioning," he said, drawing unexpected applause from the crowd.
    It was a remarkable turn for a candidate known for shouting down critics and opponents, whose low popularity was a main factor in his failure to top 50% support during the first round of voting in the race, which forced him into a runoff with second-place Garcia.
    Emanuel may have felt the freedom to kibbitz because polls have shown him opening a wider lead by the day over the past week. A survey out this weekend showed him up by nearly 17 points, while a Chicago Tribune survey released the day of the debate gave him a 28-point lead.
    Garcia's supporters have dismissed the polls, noting that early public surveys didn't predict Garcia making the runoff and arguing that the timing — during Spring break, when teachers will be available to turn out the vote for Garcia — and the historic nature of the runoff give them a shot.
    And despite lagging in the polls, the Cook County commissioner hasn't given up the fight. On Tuesday night he accused Emanuel of Chicago-machine-style "pinstripe patronage" by offering city favors to contributors and alleged that there was a "veil of secrecy" surrounding the city's budget.
    In a particularly testy exchange, Garcia hammered Emanuel for refusing to meet with city residents near O'Hare international airport who had been seeking a hearing on noise pollution.
    "They have some ideas that ought to be heard," he said, the two speaking over each other. "Give them a half-hour. Come on."
    But Emanuel leaned heavily on Garcia to offer details on his financial proposals and questioned his management experience as the head of a nonprofit that the mayor said Garcia left hundreds of thousands in the red.
    And he dismissed Garcia's criticism, declaring: "Your attacks on me are a smokescreen for the fact that you don't have a plan to attack Chicago's problems."
    That was the main theme of Emanuel's pitch to voters Tuesday night during his final debate with challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in advance of the April 7 mayoral runoff.
    When Garcia suggested decisions Emanuel made during his time on the board of mortgage giant Freddie Mac contributed to the recession, Emanuel joked: "Single-handedly, I ushered in the recession...only you and my mother think that."
    Emanuel accused Garcia of "promising everything to everybody, like Hanukkah Harry" by promising to both fix the city's financial morass and offer new police and school programs. He went on to evoke his grandmother's saying in the face of proposals that were similarly too good to be true.
    "What ends up happening is like what my grandmother used to say—'such a deal!'" he scoffed.
    Another scene-stealing moment came after moderator Phil Ponce questioned Garcia about his son's alleged gang affiliation. Garcia said his son is now a chef and that he's "turned his life around," but Emanuel interjected in his defense.
    "I actually don't think this is a fair line of questioning," he said, drawing unexpected applause from the crowd.
    It was a remarkable turn for a candidate known for shouting down critics and opponents, whose low popularity was a main factor in his failure to top 50% support during the first round of voting in the race, which forced him into a runoff with second-place Garcia.
    Emanuel may have felt the freedom to kibbitz because polls have shown him opening a wider lead by the day over the past week. A survey out this weekend showed him up by nearly 17 points, while a Chicago Tribune survey released the day of the debate gave him a 28-point lead.
    Garcia's supporters have dismissed the polls, noting that early public surveys didn't predict Garcia making the runoff and arguing that the timing — during Spring break, when teachers will be available to turn out the vote for Garcia — and the historic nature of the runoff give them a shot.
    And despite lagging in the polls, the Cook County commissioner hasn't given up the fight. On Tuesday night he accused Emanuel of Chicago-machine-style "pinstripe patronage" by offering city favors to contributors and alleged that there was a "veil of secrecy" surrounding the city's budget.
    In a particularly testy exchange, Garcia hammered Emanuel for refusing to meet with city residents near O'Hare international airport who had been seeking a hearing on noise pollution.
    "They have some ideas that ought to be heard," he said, the two speaking over each other. "Give them a half-hour. Come on."
    But Emanuel leaned heavily on Garcia to offer details on his financial proposals and questioned his management experience as the head of a nonprofit that the mayor said Garcia left hundreds of thousands in the red.
    And he dismissed Garcia's criticism, declaring: "Your attacks on me are a smokescreen for the fact that you don't have a plan to attack Chicago's problems."