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Judge: Emanuel stays on ballot

A Cook County judge ruled Rahm Emanuel shown Tuesday promoting his plan fund after-school programs meets residency requirement run for

A Cook County judge ruled Rahm Emanuel, shown Tuesday promoting his plan to fund after-school programs, meets the residency requirement to run for mayor and can remain on the ballot. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 26, 2011 4:46AM

Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel meets the residency requirement to run for mayor of Chicago and will remain on the Feb. 22 ballot, a Cook County judge ruled Tuesday.

In a ruling issued early Tuesday afternoon, Cook County Circuit Judge Mark Ballard upheld an earlier ruling by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners that Emanuel — despite having lived in Washington, D.C. for the past two years — is eligible to run.

Emanuel doesn’t need to prove he had a “place to sleep” in Chicago to prove he “resided” here, Ballard wrote. Burt Odelson, the attorney who went to court seeking to oust Emanuel from the ballot, argued that because Emanuel rented his house out to Rob and Lori Halpin — unlike President Obama and senior advisor David Axelrod — he had no place to sleep in the city. Therefore, he fails to meet a state requirement that candidates for mayor “reside” in the city for a year prior to Election Day, Odelson said.

Odelson even quoted Obama, who on his first trip back to Chicago said, “It’s good to be back home and to be able to sleep in my own bed.”

“Mr. Emanuel couldn’t say that because Mr. Halpin was sleeping in his bed,” Odelson said.

Emanuel’s attorney, Kevin Forde, said it would be “an absurdity” to say Emanuel could not run for mayor — but Obama could — just because Emanuel rented out his house.

Ballard agreed with Emanuel.

“On the question of whether candidate Emanuel has satisfied the 1-year residency requirements . . . the court finds no error with the Board’s decision,” Ballard wrote. “We find the analysis presented by respondent candidate Emanuel to this court persuasive on the issue of whether an individual must have a ‘place to sleep’ to satisfy the litmus test of continued residence.”

Ballard also agreed with Emanuel’s attorneys that Emanuel did not “abandon” his residency by taking the chief-of-staff position.

Odelson said he will file an appeal of the ruling on Wednesday with the Illinois Appellate Court. Odelson said he hopes that oral arguments before the appeals court can be heard in about two weeks. Early voting in the mayoral race starts Jan. 31.

Whatever ruling the appeals court makes is likely to be appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

In a court hearing earlier Tuesday, Odelson invoked George Orwell’s novel 1984, comparing Emanuel with Winston Smith, Orwell’s fictional government character whose job it was to rewrite history. Odelson noted that Emanuel moved to Washington and filed his taxes from there. He filed as a non-resident in Illinois after renting out his house.

He also noted that Emanuel didn’t get a homeowner’s exemption on his Cook County property taxes.

After deciding to run for mayor, Emanuel amended his tax returns to call himself a full-time state resident. He said the earlier non-resident filing was a mistake by his accountant.

Emanuel also filed a “certificate of error” to regain his homeowner’s property-tax exemption.

Odelson told the judge Emanuel’s actions amounted to “I changed history. Now, I am a Chicago resident — Rahm Emanuel.”

Emanuel attorney Mike Kasper rejected the Orwell analogy, saying: “It’s not an attempt to rewrite history — it is merely history the way it is. Mr. Emanuel rented out his house. He didn’t sell it. He never listed his house.”

Odelson argued that the state municipal code, which creates the one-year residency requirement, should be viewed in isolation from the state election code, which says people who leave town “in the business of the United States” don’t lose their residency. Kasper said the two codes work in tandem. Ballard agreed.

“Service in the Executive Office of the President satisfies the statutory requirement that it be ‘business of the United States,’” Ballard wrote.

Odelson filed his challenge to Emanuel’s candidacy on behalf of two named clients — Walter Maksym and Thomas McMahon. Asked Tuesday if anyone else is helping to pay his legal fees for the challenge, Odelson said, “That’s none of your business.”

Kasper, asked how much the Emanuel campaign is paying him and other lawyers on the case, said the amount of those fees eventually will become public when the campaign files its campaign-finance reports.

Odelson may invoke 1984, but Emanuel’s case sounds kind of like 2002 in Massachusetts.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney moved from his home in Belmont, Mass., to Utah in 1999 to run the Winter Olympics. Then he returned to his home in Massachusetts to run for governor in 2002 and found his residency challenged by the state’s Democratic Party.

As in Emanuel’s case, Romney had filed his Massachusetts state taxes as a non-resident then amended his taxes to make himself a resident to run. Romney also blamed his accountant. Massachusetts’ courts rejected the challenges to his residency and he won the governor’s race.

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