State Legislators File Bill to Allow Chicago Voters to Impeach Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel appeals for calm after Laquon McDonald video (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)
Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

The troubles facing recently re-elected Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel are mounting as a disparate group of activists are working to force him to resign. More ominous for the mayor, two state legislators are trying a different tactic by filing a bill that would change the law and allow city voters to impeach or recall the Democratic mayor.

Currently there are no recall or impeachment provisions in state law for the mayor of Chicago. But that will change if Democratic State Representatives La Shawn Ford and Mary Flowers have anything to say about it.

On Wednesday Ford and Flowers filed HB4356, a bill that would allow for a recall election of the mayor.

To become law both houses of the state legislature would have to approve the bill, and it would then have to be signed by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner. It may not be a long-shot because a growing list of activists are opposing Emanuel.

The new bill says a recall election can be started by petitions signed by 15 percent or more of the total number of voters who voted in the previous election for mayor. Also, there would have to be at least 50 signatures from each Chicago ward. Furthermore, new challengers would need 12,500 signatures to get on the ballot to face the incumbent mayor.

Ford said that he filed his bill in response to the growing number of his constituents who want solutions to the current problems gripping the city.

Still, Ford insisted it wasn’t necessarily a comment on Emanuel himself. “This is not an indictment on the mayor. This is what the people want. This is a piece of legislation that will not be only for the mayor now. It’s for any mayor that comes after him,” the Chicago-based legislator said.

Chicago’s ABC affiliate relayed a statement from city hall on the proposal.

“We understand there’s a desire by some to insert politics into this discussion, but the mayor’s focus is not on his own personal politics. His focus is on the residents of this city and finally and fully addressing the issue of police accountability, which has challenged Chicago for decades. He is energized by the challenge in front of us, and committed to driving real solutions for our city”

On Wednesday, the mayor unleashed a nearly tear-filled plea to the city promising he would “fix” things but it doesn’t seem his attempts at atonement have satisfied opponents. The recall bill is just one of the many avenues that activists are trying in their effort to fire the mayor.

Chicago is in the midst of over two weeks of daily protests over the city’s response to the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, shot 16 times by a now indicted Chicago police officer.

After the first full week of protests Mayor Emanuel tried to appease protesters by firing Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy and announcing a commission made up of experts and community leaders to find a replacement and address department practices.

Despite the move, Emanuel has continued to remain a focus of calls for his resignation, though. Only days after he fired McCarthy, for instance, both The New York Times and the nearby Milwaukee Journal Sentinel both called for the mayor to quit his post.

Many voices have also criticized Emanuel for the year-long delay in the release of the police dashcam video of the shooting saying that the delay was meant to smooth Emanuel’s re-election campaign.

The charge stung the mayor so badly that he had the Chicago Tribune post an op-ed under his name denying the charges.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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