Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel will be the next mayor of Chicago, winning more than 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday to avoid a run-off.

Emanuel will take the helm of the nation's third-largest city and President Barack Obama's hometown in May after Mayor Richard Daley, who has been in office for 22 years, retires.

He will face a formidable task because Chicago's finances, like those of many U.S. cities and states, were devastated by the recession.

None of Emanuel's rivals polled over 25 percent of the vote, according to election returns.

Emanuel, 51, known for his hard-driving style and often profane language, led opinion polls throughout the campaign and won endorsements from the city's two major newspapers, the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune.

He built a $12 million campaign war chest, enabling him to blanket local television with ads, including some featuring Obama and former President Bill Clinton that lavished praise on him.

But Emanuel's campaign was not trouble-free. He spent weeks this winter fighting claims he did not meet residency requirements because of his time working at the White House, though before working for Obama he had represented a district in Chicago for several years.

A state appeals court threw him off the ballot in late January, but the state's Supreme Court quickly reinstated him.

Emanuel's five rivals, who included former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun and former Chicago public schools president Gery Chico, had mostly focused their attacks on him rather than on each other.

As mayor, Emanuel will face unpopular choices. Chicago, like many local and state governments, is staggering under fiscal problems, with a $500 million deficit and shortfalls in its public worker pensions.

The next mayor will face enormously difficult decisions, said Laurence Msall, president of The Civic Federation, a nonpartisan research group.

Emanuel will have a new, less pliable city council than Daley enjoyed, with 20 of its 50 wards or districts getting new representatives known locally as aldermen, said Dick Simpson, head of the political science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a former Chicago alderman.

The new council will not be as (much as a) rubber stamp as the old one, said Simpson.

(Writing by Mary Wisniewski, Editing by Greg McCune and Philip Barbara)