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It was a sudden and poignant end to a bitter two-year battle.
"When we closed last night, many votes had not been counted," Quinn said, hunched over a podium as he read a statement to a throng of reporters at the Thompson Center. "Now the votes have been counted and it's clear we don't have enough to win."
He vowed to focus his last weeks in office on working with the General Assembly to raise the minimum wage, an idea backed by more than 60 percent of voters statewide on a nonbinding ballot initiative. He also promised to reach out to Rauner to ensure a fluid transition.
And then, abruptly, Quinn was done.
"I'll see you," he said, striding out as quickly as he'd come in.
Some Quinn aides were visibly teary eyed. Others joked with reporters about the possibility that Rauner would outsource the governor's press office as one of his first acts on the job.
In truth, there are other offices he's promised to outsource instead.
A few minutes later Rauner's campaign issued a statement thanking Quinn for "his many years of service"—the years it's previously castigated as a "failure"—and praised his commitment to a smooth transition.
At City Hall, though, the transition was already well underway—to the municipal elections in February.
Earlier in the afternoon, Mayor Rahm Emanuel assured reporters that he really had been rooting for Quinn even though he and Rauner have been friends for years—a relationship that once included business deals and vacations out west.
"It's been so long, I don't remember when I last talked to Bruce," the mayor proclaimed.
He hailed Quinn for helping secure funding to rehab the CTA's Red and Blue lines. Then he began listing all of the other great steps he said the city had taken since he entered office: "We have a rising graduation rate, a declining unemployment rate, a growing technology sector, and we're moving Chicago forward . . ."
A reporter noted that Emanuel's mayoral opponents, starting with county commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and Alderman Robert Fioretti, would try to portray him as another wealthy, out of touch Rauner or Mitt Romney.
The mayor insisted it wasn't appropriate to talk about his reelection effort just yet. "I'd like 24 hours commercial free," he said. "Let's give the public a break before we go on to the next election."
But since you mention it . . .
"I will say, when I entered office we had a public transportation system that was crumbling. . . . We now have a rising graduation rate. . . . We have a declining unemployment rate. . . . We're making the tough decisions. . . . "
A campaign theme was coming into view.
And in case anyone was skeptical—since many people have been—he added, "I'm a Democrat."