Court reverses Rahm Emanuel residency ruling

January 24, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The appellate court reversed a lower court's decision from earlier this month. In the 42-page document, the Appellate Court writes, ". . .we reverse the circuit court's judgment, set aside the Board's decision, and order that the candidate's name be excluded (or, if necessary, removed) from the ballot for Chicago's February 22, 2011, mayoral election."

On Monday afternoon, Emanuel said he will appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. "Our goal is quickly, for the clarity . . . not only for the voters-- but for the clarity of the issues at stake here for the city." Read the Appellate Court Decision (PDF)

At issue is whether Emanuel should be able to run for mayor of Chicago since he lived in Washington, D.C., for the last year while serving as White House chief of Staff.

Chicago's Municipal Code says, "A qualified elector of the municipality and [must have] resided in the municipality at least one year next preceding the election."

The appellate court takes aim at the "reside in" requirement of the Municipal Code, focusing on the distinction between being a voter and a candidate.

The court order states, "We believe, therefore, that the initial purpose of the 'reside in' requirement for candidates, and the failure of the legislature to alter that language in the current Municipal Code, strongly indicates that the phrase 'resided in' as used in the Municipal Code requires actual, not constructive, residence."

The decision goes on to say, a candidate "must have actually resided within the municipality for one year prior to the election, a qualification that the candidate unquestionably does not satisfy."

Emanuel said he always planned to return to Chicago and still pays taxes there.

"I think, fundamentally, when the president asks you to serve the country as your chief of staff, that counts as serving your country," said Emanuel. "I have no doubt we will at the end prevail at this effort. As my father used to say, 'Nothing's ever easy in life.' "

Emanuel, who represented the city's North Side in Congress for six years, resigned his office in early 2009 to accept the job as President Barack Obama's chief of staff. He leased his house on North Hermitage Avenue and moved his family to Washington, D.C., where was he was living and working when Mayor Richard M. Daley announced he would not run for another term.

"I vote from here, pay property taxes here. I do believe that the people of the city of Chicago deserve the right to choose who will be their next mayor," said Emanuel.

In December, a hearing on Emanuel's residency was held by the Chicago Board of Elections. They determined he met the requirements of a resident and a Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of that decision.

Burt Odelson, the election attorney who filed the legal objection to Emanuel's mayoral candidacy, was not surprised by Monday's ruling.

"The law in Illinois which has been here since 1871 that you have to be a resident for one year prior to the election," said Odelson.

During the December hearing, Emanuel spent 12 hours answering questions about his residency. Most of the interrogators were private citizens who joined Odelson's case as objectors.

"This was a win for the small guy, the regular person in the community," said Paul McKinley, citizen objector.

With early voting scheduled to begin next week, the election board began printing ballots without Emanuel's name listed among the candidates Monday night.

"We have to begin that process now. We have a substantial amount of work to do to get ready for the election, and we will be ready for the election," said Langdon Neal of the Chicago Board of Elections.

In their Supreme Court filing, Emanuel's lawyers have asked for an injunction to stop the printing of ballots before the seven judges rule.

Unless the Supreme Court says otherwise, there are now only five candidates for mayor of Chicago.

Other mayoral hopefuls react to Rahm ruling

"I believe the court has spoken and unless and until they change their mind, that's the law of the land," said Carol Moseley Braun, candidate for mayor. "There's one less candidate."

Others are sounding less definitive about Emanuel's fate.

"We don't change a bit whether Rahm Emanuel is in or out of the race. We run the same way," said candidate for mayor Gery Chico.

Last week a Tribune poll showed Emanuel with a commanding lead, followed by Carol Moseley Braun, Chico, and City Clerk Miguel del Valle.

In the dash for campaign cash, though, Chico has raised $2.5 million while Braun has struggled to scrape together $500,000.

"We've always had a poor campaign with a rich message," said Moseley Braun.

Her comments on the Emanuel ruling included a request for donations and other support from the former White House Chief of Staff's backers. But some believe it is Chico who stands to benefit the most from Emanuel's departure.

"I think Gery Chico is perceived as the the business candidate, downtown candidate. That's the same as Rahm and he'll pick up those voters," said Laura Washington, ABC 7 political analyst.

Meanwhile, the candidates polling toward the bottom hope a shake-up at the top causes voters to take another look at them.

"For those who thought Rahm Emanuel's election was a forgone conclusion, now the voters will really have an opportunity to choose the next mayor of Chicago," said Miguel del Valle.

"I think it's a blow to the establishment," said candidate for mayor Patricia Watkins.

"Rahm is history and it's a race between five people," said William Walls.

Justices in the Illinois Supreme Court will either decide to hear the case or they could simply stay out of it and let the appellate court ruling stand.

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