Emanuel's Chicago home still under lease

September 28, 2010 (WASHINGTON)

Rahm Emanuel could announce that he is leaving the White House as soon as Friday. He has said in the past that his dream job is to be mayor of Chicago.

But it doesn't look like he'll be moving back to his old neighborhood anytime soon. It appears that Emanuel was looking into it, but the people who are leasing his old house said they're not going anywhere.

Emanuel hoped to move back into his North Side home next month, but his request was denied by the family who holds the lease.

"Well, if he has a lease, they'll have to work that out," said neighbor Steve Rugo.

"It's a great neighborhood. I can't imagine that he wouldn't want to move here," said Thomas Pauly.

Pauly said he's not surprised to hear that the White House chief of staff wanted to move back in.

"He was a great neighbor, or is a great neighbor," Pauly said. "The people that live there right now are great neighbors. So I'm conflicted. I'll be happy to have either one be a neighbor of mine."

With several other Democrats preparing for a possible mayoral run, the pressure is increasing on Emanuel to make a decision and throw his hat in the race. He may make an official announcement Friday. President Obama says Emanuel has his blessing if he wants to leave his post, but it's unclear if Obama will endorse Emanuel in the race.

For now, Emanuel will have to find a new place to live.

"I think it would be great to have the mayor live next door," said Pauly. "When he was appointed chief of staff, we had Secret Service here every single day, protecting the neighborhood, front and back. I can imagine what it would be like to have the mayor next door."

Another detail to which Emanuel would have to attend is gathering support on the ward and precinct levels.

Committeeman John Fritchey, whose 32nd Ward on the North Side lies totally within what used to be Emanuel's congressional district, is not sold on the White House chief of staff's candidacy for mayor.

"Most of my colleagues are waiting to see who's actually going to be in or out. And to think that anybody is going to come in as the prohibitive favorite I think is premature and I don't think is going to be the case," said Fritchey.

During his four terms in Congress, Emanuel earned a reputation as a prolific political fundraiser. But mayoral candidate Gery Chico, Mayor Daley's one-time chief of staff, school board president, former U.S. Senate candidate and now City Colleges board chairman, says Emanuel has not cornered the political money in Chicago.

"I'm a prolific fundraiser myself...I raised more than $4 million this last time in federal hard money in running for the United States Senate. Our campaign finance team right now has had to add people because the response has been very responsive and that is a good problem to have," said Chico.

Sheriff Dart said the hype surrounding Emanuel's possible run for Chicago mayor is coming from Washington, D.C. and not Chicago.

"If there was one thing I think people would feel safe in saying right now is Washington in their thinking is not what the rest of the world is tying into these days," said Dart.

ABC7 has learned that other potential candidates and their lawyers already are working up cases to challenge Emanuel's residency. They say because he has not lived here during the past year and a half and that he is ineligible to run for mayor.

At least one election law attorney says there's a serious question about whether Emanuel can legally run for mayor.

Attorney Burt Odelson, 38, says having a house in the city may not be enough for Emanuel to be able to run.

Odelson says an 1871 state law requires candidates to live in their jurisdiction for the year before the election.

"Because he rented his house, he gave his domicile up. He now lives in Washington with his wife and his children," said election attorney Burton Odelson. "If he had left his home vacant, just like the President of the United States did, and come back to it on occasion, like the President has, or like Congressmen do, he would have no problem. But he gave up his interest in the City of Chicago."

Emanuel will have to make up his mind soon. He's facing a November 22 deadline to get on the February ballot.

Should Emanuel leave the White House, President Obama is expected to choose an interim chief of staff. That's likely to be Peter Rouse, one of Obama's senior advisers in the White House and his former chief of staff in the Senate.

Emanuel long has expressed interest in running for Chicago mayor; the incumbent, Richard Daley, isn't running again.

Even Obama acknowledges Emanuel would have to leave soon, should he choose to run.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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