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Emanuel back in mayoral race after ruling

Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel campaigned Wishbone restaurant north Lincoln ave. Thursday January 27 2011. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel campaigned at Wishbone restaurant on north Lincoln ave. Thursday January 27, 2011. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Rahm Emanuel Timeline

October 1, 2010, Rahm Emanuel resigns his post as White House Chief of Staff to run for Mayor of Chicago.

November 13, 2010, Emanuel formally announces his candidacy for mayor of Chicago.

December 23, 2010, Chicago Board of Election Commissioners rule that Emanuel is a Chicago resident and therefore can run for mayor.

January 4, 2011, A Cook County judge seconds the Chicago Board of Elections’ decision that Emanuel should stay on the ballot.

January 24, 2011, An appellate court panel ruled 2-1 that Emanuel did not meet the residency standard to run for mayor.

January 27, 2011, The Supreme Court ruled 7-0 to overturn the appellate court panel, saying the lower court erred in taking Emanuel off the ballot.

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Updated: May 4, 2011 4:45AM

Rahm Emanuel can run for mayor.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled 7-0 Thursday that Emanuel qualifies as a Chicago resident and can remain on the ballot for the election, which is now less than a month away.

“I’m relieved for this. I’m relieved for the city. I’m relieved for the voters because they need the certainty that’s important for them,” Emanuel said after the ruling was handed down late Thursday afternoon. Emanuel said he immediately called his wife and parents upon hearing the news — and also took a call from President Obama.

Five Supreme Court justices said an appellate court got it all wrong Monday when it ruled that Emanuel did not meet the residency standard to run for mayor because he hadn’t physically lived in his Ravenswood home for a year prior to the Feb. 22nd election.

The majority ruling means Emanuel holds onto his position as the first name on the ballot in the election, for which early voting begins Monday. Emanuel has been leading in both the polls and fund-raising in the race that includes candidates Carol Moseley Braun, Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle. Patricia Van Pelt Watkins and William “Dock” Walls are also on the ballot.

Two other justices — Anne Burke and Charles Freeman — said they agreed Emanuel deserved to be on the ballot, but they warned that the majority’s strongly-written opinion Thursday creates such a broad new definition of “residency” that it threatens laws about police and firefighters having to live in the city, rules about what schools students can attend and who qualifies for in-state tuition at Illinois universities.

“Today’s decision will raise questions beyond the facts of this case,’’ the two concurring justices wrote. “ ... This court should be prepared to address those issues as firmly and expeditiously as we have done today.’’

The majority had harsh words for the appellate court, saying its earlier ruling that temporarily threw the race wide open was “fundamentally flawed’’ and saying that court tossed “out 150 years of settled residency law.

“The novel standard adopted by the appellate court majority is without any foundation in Illinois law,’’ the majority opinion said.

The Supreme Court said only two elements are needed for a candidate to establish residency: physical presence and the intent to remain. To maintain residency, the test is no longer physical presence but whether the candidate actually abandoned the residence.

The court gave examples of a city resident with a winter home in Florida, someone with a job that requires a worker to live overseas for several months out of the year, or Illinois politicians that also have condos in Washington or Springfield.

“Is such a person ineligible for municipal office unless he or she sleeps at the Chicago house every night for the year preceding the election?’’ the court asked.

The court’s answer was no.

“Once a person has established residence, he or she can be physically absent from that residence for months or even years without having abandoned it,’’ the court said.

Therefore, the court said, Emanuel did not lose his residency just because he rented out his home while he was in Washington, D.C.

“The objectors claim that, once a person rents out a residence, he or she has abandoned it as a matter of law,’’ the court’s decision said. “This is obviously incorrect.’’

The court found that Emanuel always intended to maintain his home on Hermitage.

“Not only did the candidate testify that his intent was not to abandon his Chicago residence, his acts fully support and confirm that intent,’’ the decision states. “The candidate told several friends that he intended to serve as Chief of Staff for no more than 18 months or two years before returning to Chicago. The candidate has continued to own and pay property taxes on the Chicago residence while only renting in Washington, D.C.’’

The leases for the Washington and Chicago homes were written to coincide with the children’s school year, the justices argued. Also Emanuel kept an Illinois driver’s license — not one from Washington, D.C. — registered his car to the Chicago address, voted from that address in every election from 1999 to 2010, did his banking in Chicago, and had his Chicago address printed on his personal checks.

And the court noted that Emanuel “left many personal items’’ at the home, “including his bed, two televisions, a stereo system, a piano, and over 100 boxes of personal possessions.’’

The decision came down as Emanuel — who said he had banned the word “resident’’ from family Scrabble matches — was greeting voters at the Clark and Lake L stop. He said he was excited to be able to break the news to commuters that he would indeed be on the ballot.

“Voters deserve a right to make a choice of who should be mayor, and I think what the Supreme Court said was basically in short that the voters will make the decision who should be mayor,’’ he said. “No one should make it for them.’’

But attorney Burt Odelson, who filed the challenge against Emanuel’s residency, said “we gave it our best shot.’’ He strongly disagreed with the ruling, saying the majority opinion “throws [city] residency laws out the window. It’s ridiculous.’’

Other candidates in the race, however, said they were eager to get the residency issue out of the headlines.

Chico hoped the “circus’’ environment surrounding the race will now end.

“Now that the Supreme Court has made their decision, the residents will choose their next mayor based on the candidates’ track records and their vision for Chicago,’’ he said in a statement. “ ... With less than 30 days to go until Election Day, there is no time to waste. Game on.’’


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