Mayor's race: Emanuel in, Meeks out

December 23, 2010 9:42:48 PM PST
After hearing objectors' final arguments, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners ruled Thursday that ex-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel can remain in the race to become the city's next mayor.

A hearing officer released his recommendation earlier Thursday, saying Emanuel-- whose residency in Chicago was in question-- should be on the ballot. The recommendation was not binding but was approved by the three-member Board of Elections, which is made up of two Democrats and one Republican.

Thursday's proceedings with objectors got off to a rocky start. A policy known as Rule 20 allowed attorneys for some of the two dozen objectors, as well as attorneys for Emanuel, to make statements to the board in their last-ditch efforts to sway the decision.

"This is a time for legal arguments and factual arguments, and you don't get to ask me questions," board Chairman Langdon Neal said to one objector.

"Rahm Emanuel can't be above the law," mayoral candidate Bill "Doc" Walls told ABC7 Chicago. "One of the major things here is the fact that he did not purchase a city sticker."

The board meeting came hours after hearing officer Joseph Morris recommended to the Board of Elections Commissioners that the former White House chief of staff should remain in the race.

"The name of Rahm Emanuel shall appear and shall be printed on the ballot for the election to the office of mayor of the city of Chicago," Morris wrote.

During a campaign stop Thursday, Emanuel responded to surviving the pivotal first round of his residency challenge.

"What this [the hearing officer's recommendation] reaffirms is that I was a resident, and that the only reason I left was to work for President Obama. And I think the most important thing to remember is that we turn the page now and focus on what I have been focusing on, which is the priorities facing the city," Emanuel said.

The board had been expected to side with Morris' recommendation favoring Emanuel, although he moved his family to Washington and rented out his North Side home. State law requires mayoral candidates to be city residents for one year before an election.

"I am really disappointed in the quality of the hearing officer's decision. It is extremely poor with no analysis whatsoever," said Attorney Burt Odelson.

Meanwhile, some voters -- who said they were tired of city politics-- wondered what the residency issue means for Chicago's future.

"It's too many people, and it just breaks up the vote. I don't know. To me, personally, it's all crooked," voter Teresa Gomez said.

Many of the objectors say their issue with Rahm Emanuel is a matter of law and everyone having to follow the law. A recent poll put Rahm Emanuel at the top of a number of those running for mayor in the upcoming election.

Attorneys for the objectors are expected to begin filing lawsuits challenging the board's decision right away.

Also on Thursday, State Senator Rev. James Meeks announced he was dropping out of the mayor's race.

When Meeks announced his candidacy for mayor last month, it was a big production. Political analysts say Meeks, the pastor of a South Side mega-church, could have been a major player in the race.

However, he announced his withdrawal from the race Thursday with a simple written statement, saying he believes that "as long as our community remains divided and splintered we will never see things improve. We need to speak with one voice."

Meeks met with Congressman Danny Davis and former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun Wednesday and encouraged them to withdraw from the race in the interest of finding a consensus candidate for the African-American community to unite behind.

Davis and Moseley Braun say they are staying in the race.

"A unified community is the most desired outcome, and so I too hope that we're going to see that," said mayoral candidate Rep. Danny Davis.

"I don't think that it's a matter of a consensus candidate, to use the term," said Moseley Braun. "I think it's a matter of the best candidate."

Braun also says she believes Emanuel, the early leader in some mayoral polls, should be subject to the same residency rules as teachers, police and firefighters.

The election commissioners apparently felt otherwise with their vote Thursday to keep Emanuel on the ballot.

"I'm confident in this: that the board made a decision, they saw that I had worked for President Obama, that I owned a home here, pay property taxes here, that I was a congressman from here," said Emanuel Thursday.

The board's decision, however, is merely round one. Opponents immediately filed a challenge in court. Meanwhile, many of Emanuel's opponents are publicly trying to avoid the issue.

"I'm running for mayor irrespective of who is on or who is off the ballot," said mayoral hopeful Gery Chico.

Experts expect the legal challenge to Emanuel's residency to work its way to the Illinois Supreme Court, which could make the final ruling. Such a ruling could still be four to five weeks away.

The departure of Meeks from the race leaves the total number of candidates for Chicago mayor at 13. The deadline for withdrawing from the race passed Thursday evening.


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