CHICAGO — Rahm Emanuel declared victory in the Chicago mayor's race on Tuesday night.
"Thank you, Chicago, for this humbling victory," a smiling Emanuel told supporters. "All I can say, you sure know how to make a guy feel at home. It is easy to find differences, but we can never allow them to become divisions. Tonight we are moving forward in the only way we truly can. Together. As one city, with one future.
"It's you. It's the hard-working, plain-speaking folks who share a love for their city and a determination to keep it strong," he said. "I share that love and I am determined with your help to meet our challenges head on and to make a great city even greater."
Emanuel's declaration came after runner-up Gery Chico called him to concede defeat.
"We've elected a mayor tonight," Chico told supporters. "I want with all of my heart for Rahm Emanuel to be successful as mayor. We need that, ladies and gentlemen."
Emanuel needed to be above the 50 percent benchmark to avoid a runoff election and six more weeks of campaigning, and he got what he needed. With 92 percent of precincts counted, Emanuel had 54.9 percent to 24.4 percent for Chico.
City Clerk Miguel del Valle had 9.4 percent and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun was at 8.7 percent.
Braun conceded defeat, saying she didn't know whether there would be a runoff.
"I believe that hope flames eternal," she told supporters. "We will continue to try to inspire people, to get them engaged in government. ... I wish the victor in this race all the success in the taking of the reins of government."
Emanuel is holding his election night party at a Near West Side union hall. The Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" played in the background as early election results came in.
A small crowd cheered as returns showed Emanuel over 50 percent and leading competitors with a wide margin.
Emanuel and his family were gathered in a room above the hall's main floor. They sat on a small red couch as they watched returns come in on a flat-screen television. Emanuel seemed giddy as he watched his lead grow.
At Chico's election night headquarters at a River North hotel, the crowd was subdued as results rolled in showing Emanuel with a commanding lead. The campaign sent U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a staunch supporter, to speak to reporters. Gutierrez said he was "upbeat" because early results did not show where votes had been counted. But campaign staffers acknowledged Chico was making plans to come downstairs and address supporters "pretty soon."
At Braun's campaign party at a South Side ballroom, a 10-man gospel chorus was on stage belting out a song with the chorus: "We are the chosen generation."
Many in attendance turned away from the TV on one side of the room and clapped for the group or waved their hands to the music. Some held up smart phones to get quick videos of the performance.
A few dozen "Carol for Chicago" signs were stacked just outside the room for Braun's eventual appearance before a bank of news cameras. Some on the campaign were signaling it will be an early night.
Earlier Tuesday, the major contenders fanned out across the city on Election Day looking for last-minute votes.
Despite a tremendous amount of attention on the mayor's race and a slew of hotly-contested aldermanic races, election officials say turnout could be as low as 40 percent. That's far less than the 50 percent turnout officials were hoping for on Monday.
Mayor Richard Daley, who was out of town Tuesday, isn't on the ballot for the first time since 1989. He'll leave office on May 16 when his successor is sworn in.