April 9, 2015 5:49 AM EDT

To anyone familiar with Rahm Emanuel, the outcome of Chicago’s mayoral runoff election on April 7 should not have been a surprise. The brash former Congressman and chief of staff to President Obama is accustomed to getting his way–and quick to lash out on the rare occasions when he doesn’t. Since becoming mayor of the nation’s third largest city in 2011, that hard-charging style has helped Emanuel lower the crime rate and extend the school day. But all fights have casualties, and Emanuel’s agenda alienated many of the city’s teachers and working-class parents. As he ran for a second term, those voters rallied behind Cook County commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia as a populist alternative. The hopes of liberals across the nation were buoyed when Garcia forced Emanuel into Chicago’s first mayoral runoff.

But Emanuel has never lost an election, and he easily won the runoff with 56% of the vote. Still, his critics can perhaps claim some measure of success. At his victory party, Emanuel described his re-election as a second chance and said, “I understand the challenges we face will require me to approach them differently and work in a different fashion.”

Humbling Rahm Emanuel? A rare achievement indeed.


This appears in the April 20, 2015 issue of TIME.

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