Board sorts through election objections

December 6, 2010 (CHICAGO)

With 20 candidates in the mayoral race, 100 people attended a meeting about ballot objections Monday.

Chicago Board of Elections officials began scrutinizing those challenges Monday morning, including allegations concerning the residency of Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff.

Over two dozen people objected to Emanuel's candidacy. Not only did they come to challenge his residency, some wore buttons demanding that he be indicted. And they vowed to bring witnesses to their cases.

Other candidates have alleged fake signatures on their petitions.

As the hearing began, the list of objectors to Emanuel's candidacy for mayor had swelled to over 30. Sylvester "Junebug" Hendricks pointed out he can't run for city office because he's homeless. He says Emanuel should not be treated differently.

"If you can be challenged as a homeless candidate for any office, then Rahm Emanuel should be subject to the same challenge," said Hendricks.

Election attorney Burt Odelson, who raised questions months ago about the former congressman's candidacy, is concerned that so many 'unlawyered' objectors could cloud the litigation with Emanuel's lawyers.

"We both want to move this along, especially in light of the 30 odd cases aside from my case," said Odelson.

Other objections include the charge that Emanuel is indebted to Chicago because he did not buy a city sticker for his car.

"If you're a debtor to the municipality, you are disqualified to run for office," said Odelson. "It's gonna turn into a little bit of a circus and I wanna do my case and go know the law is on my side."

Emanuel's campaign issued a statement Monday afternoon saying Emanuel did not buy a city sticker in 2009 because his car was in Washington.

Along with residency and indebtedness, other objectors allege Emanuel's financial interest statement is incomplete and that some of his required signatures were photocopied.

At a stormy election board meeting before the hearing, objectors' attorneys demanded that chairman Langdon Neal recuse himself from the Emanuel case.

"They're objecting that I made a statement to the press that would decide the case," said Neal.

Hearing officer Joseph A. Morris, an attorney who was disciplined by state regulators several years ago, was also challenged by several objectors.

"Are you the same Joseph who is under censorship? We just want clarity, yea or nay?" said one woman who attended the hearing.

"If you wish to object to my service as a hearing officer, please do it in writing today. Yes. Do it, do it today," Morris responded.

Morris says he wants to begin hearing live witnesses in the Rahm Emanuel case by next Monday. The candidate himself is expected to testify in his own defense.

The election board wants the case heard and decided as quickly as possible to give it time to be reviewed by the court system and finish no later than early January. The ballots must be printed and available when early voting begins on January 31.

On Monday evening, when five mayoral contenders gathered at a forum to discuss green jobs, the environment and sustainability, Emanuel's residency continued to shift the focus away from issues.

"Some of us have been out here fighting for the environment for a very, very long time," said Carol Mosley Braun, candidate for mayor.

Emanuel was among the candidates not in attendance He has yet to participate in any candidate forums.

"I'm anxious to get on with the issues. This is my fourth forum and Rahm Emanuel hasn't been to one," said Miguel del Valle, candidate for mayor. "Hopefully once we get this residential issue out of the way, he'll start showing up at these forums so we can debate the issues."

Members of the board also voted Monday to remove three lesser-known mayoral candidates from the ballot: M. Tricia Lee, Jay Stone and Ryan Graves. They did not present the necessary 12,500 signatures. A fourth candidate, Rahm Emanuel's renter Rob Halpin, withdrew his name. He said the legal and financial hurdles he faced were too great.

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