Garry McCarthy

Former Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy is taking steps toward challenging Mayor Rahm Emanuel next year. 

Associated Press

CHICAGO — Former Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has launched a website and scheduled a campaign fundraiser for next month as he continues to take steps toward challenging Mayor Rahm Emanuel next year.

The native New Yorker, who ran the Chicago Police Department for more than four years before Emanuel fired him, said he’s “very close” to making a decision while acknowledging a campaign would need to be a “yearlong event” ahead of the February 2019 election.

In September, an exploratory committee bearing McCarthy’s name was formed, and the former top cop has said the group has worked to convince him to take on Emanuel. The committee is circulating invitations for a Feb. 11 fundraiser that feature a photo of a smiling McCarthy wearing a dark suit, red tie and American flag lapel pin.

Tickets to the fundraiser, to be held at the Irish American Heritage Center on the Northwest Side, cost $100, with various donor classifications offered all the way up to $5,000 for “gold” status. McCarthy said he plans to attend the event. Asked whether he would make a decision on whether to run before the fundraiser or if the event would influence his decision, McCarthy said he wasn’t sure.

“The simple fact is if we had the money in hand that everyone has promised us, we’d be able to do everything we want to do and get through February. But I’m finding out that people say that they’re doing it, and then you have to kind of chase them down,” McCarthy told the Chicago Tribune on Monday. “I’m not positive on how it’s going to work out. I don’t think we can wait much longer to make a decision. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do it before then or do it then, I really don’t know.”

McCarthy’s exploratory committee has reported raising $44,600, state campaign finance records show. A quarterly filing due next week will reveal how much the group has spent and on what.

Asked if his ability to raise money would weigh into his decision, McCarthy responded, “Everyone talks about the money, but money doesn’t vote.”

It is necessary, however, for candidates to get their message out, and Emanuel promises to have plenty of it.

The mayor raised $24 million in his successful campaign for a second term in 2015. In December of that year, Emanuel fired McCarthy as the city’s top cop amid fallout from the release of the Laquan McDonald police shooting video. The African-American teenager was shot 16 times by a white police officer as he walked away from officers holding a folding knife. The officer, Jason Van Dyke, has been charged with murder.

At the time, Emanuel said McCarthy had lost the trust of the community and had to go. McCarthy has portrayed himself as the scapegoat and has maintained it was City Hall that was in charge of handling the McDonald video and noted that Emanuel’s Law Department fought the video’s release in court.

By Monday afternoon, a website the McCarthy committee registered last year had gone live. Garryformayor.com features the headline “Chicago Needs Change” and allows visitors to enter contact information to “receive updates about the campaign.” The site also has a donation button and a page listing rules and restrictions for contributions.

“Chicago needs new leadership and a new direction — to combat crime, strengthen our schools, reign (sic) in the budget and make our city a hub for innovation and new business once again,” the home page declares. “It’s why we’ve joined together as concerned citizens to promote the former Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, Garry McCarthy, who’s exploring a run for mayor of Chicago.”

McCarthy said scores of Chicagoans have encouraged him to take on Emanuel, with people regularly coming up to him on the street and asking him to run.

“I had one guy yesterday at the Jewel tell me he wants to help me out, and he’d knock on every door in Humboldt Park. This was a guy from the ‘hood,’ “ McCarthy said. “So, it’s just pretty amazing to me the groundswell of support I’m getting. Now, whether or not the politics supports that, I don’t know.”

After calling a run for mayor “unlikely” last year, McCarthy has said he’s warmed to the idea, while Chicago Principals & Administrators Association President Troy LaRaviere has said he will run. Businessman Willie Wilson, who ran in 2015, and Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer have not ruled out a run. Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who lost to Emanuel in the 2015 runoff election, had eyed another mayoral challenge before jumping in to a bid for Congress after the surprise retirement of U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez.

On Monday, McCarthy said there are “a lot of factors to take into account.”

“I truly haven’t made up my mind,” he said. “Very close, but not there yet.”

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