Fraud questions, challenges loom in race for mayor

December 5, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Among those are the challenges to mayoral candidate Rahm Emmanuel's residency.

Now, there is also an investigation into apparent faked notary public signatures on other petitions.

Between aldermatic and mayoral candidates, the board must decide on 426 objections in the coming week.

Despite the questions of petition signatures and challenges to residency, the candidates say they are anxious to move on and focus on the issues. After keeping allow profile during the past couple of weeks, mayoral candidate James Meeks hit the campaign trail Sunday with Chicago native and basketball great Mark Aguiree. Meeks is calling his tour "50 Wards in 50 Days."

"We are meeting voters. Not only that; we are meeting small business owners, and we know what they need. They need capital, and these communities need to be revitalized," Meeks said.

On the city's North Side Meeks' competitor Rahm Emanuel was also talking about job creation as he announced a program to retrofit and weatherize homes by creating a dozen energy-efficient zones in Chicago.

"I'm setting up a system to take $10 million from existing programs, reprogramming those dollars and using them in a more efficient way than they're being used now," Emanuel said. "This would put over 500 people to work in the area of construction or home improvement."

While the candidates try to keep the focus on the issues, the questions over petitions and residency continue to dog the campaigns, one day before the Chicago Board of Elections begins hearings on challenges. Alleged forged signatures appear on petitions filed by candidates Rob Halpin, Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins, Carol Moseley Braun and Meeks. Authorities are investigating the matter at the state level.

"I know this type of thing happens in Chicago all the time. I'm very much for the investigation and that people be held accountable for what they have done," Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins said.

"Assuming that there was a fraud here, those people who did it ought to pay the consequences," Braun said.

"We paid people for a service. They were dishonest in their service, and they didn't do what they were supposed to do. So, whoever is supposed to investigate it now, they'll pick up the mantle, and they'll investigate it," said Meeks.

While the apparent fake signatures do not appear on any of the 90,000 Emanuel says his campaign turned in, the board of elections will be hearing several challenges to Emanuel's residency. More than 30 people are objecting, saying Emanuel lost his right to be on the ballot when he moved to Washington for two years.

"The residents of the city of Chicago are interested in safety of their streets, the strength of their schools, and the state of the economy. They're not really interested in my residency," Emanuel said.

On behalf of two Chicago residents, veteran election Attorney Burt Odelson filed residency objections against Rahm Emanuel. Odelson works for James Meeks. However, Meeks say he is not challenging Emanuel's residency.

The board of elections, not voters, decides the residency issue. Depending on the outcome, the issue is likely to play out in the courts.

As for the apparent forged signatures, candidate Rob Halpin says he will address the media this week. Halpin is being challenged by two aldermen who back Emanuel.

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