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Bombshell was allowing Rahm on ballot

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Apparently, home is not always where the heart is.

At least that seems to be the point of the stunning 2-1 ruling by the Illinois appellate panel that decided that Rahm Emanuel’s name should not appear on the Feb. 22 ballot as a mayoral candidate.

Appellate justices Thomas Hoffman and Shelvin Louise Marie Hall ruled in favor of booting Emanuel — the $11 million-dollar man — off the ballot.

Justice Bertina Lampkin was the dissenting voice on the issue. Her vote has left a crack in the door for Emanuel to keep a wing tip in this race if his lawyer gets a stay of the appellate ruling as the issue races to the Supreme Court.

Under Illinois election law, a candidate must reside in the town he or she is running for office at least one year prior to the election.

Clearly, Emanuel did not meet that standard since he, his wife and his children have lived in Washington, D.C., for the past two years while he served as President Obama’s chief of staff.

To Emanuel’s credit, his argument that he should be allowed to run because serving the president is akin to serving his country is persuasive.

But the law doesn’t speak to a prospective candidate’s good works, and a spirited legal fight ensued.

I mean either you live in a place or you don’t.

For instance, suppose one of the other prospective mayoral candidates had argued that he or she should be able to run for mayor even though they had not physically lived in Chicago a year prior to filing nomination petitions. Suppose that person rented out their home to a stranger and moved to another city to, say, work in the ministry for two years? Would anyone think that person was eligible to run for mayor? I don’t think so.

So the bombshell was actually dropped when Cook County Circuit Judge Mark Ballard upheld a ruling by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners that found Emanuel was eligible to run for mayor despite having lived in Washington, D.C., for the past two years.

This is the same bunch that kicked off the ballot an aldermanic candidate in the 27th Ward because a $60 parking ticket was unpaid at the time Victor Rowans filed his nominating petitions.

Rowans co-signed for the vehicle and thus his name was on the title.

Under the law, “a person is not eligible for an elective municipal office if that person is in arrears in the payment of a tax or indebtedness due to the municipality . . . ”

The election board ruled that the “unpaid ticket constituted an indebtedness” and that Rowans’ name not be printed on the ballot.

But anyone who has ever co-signed a car loan for a friend or relative knows that a co-signer doesn’t actually intend to own the car.

Still, when it comes to the blood sport of challenging one’s opponent, that kind of common sense doesn’t matter. The election law is the election law, and many a good candidate was tripped up by it during this election cycle.

With respect to Emanuel, an expert election lawyer like Burt Odelson would not have wasted his time on this case if the residency objection were without merit.

Still, considering Emanuel’s prestige, not to mention his $11 million war chest, it was pretty tough to swim upstream on this one.

That the election board seemed to give Emanuel a pass on the residency issue reinforced the perception that all the challenged candidates were not treated equal.

Obviously, the other mayoral hopefuls are jumping with joy over the appellate court’s decision because it will enhance their chances of winning.

Meanwhile, no one expects Emanuel to throw in the towel. Indeed, his supporters were planning to rally downtown for Emanuel’s “right to be on the ballot and let Chicagoans choose.”

Unfortunately for Chicagoans, that’s not the way things are normally done in this city.

The city has its rules, and the perception is that exceptions to those rules are for the benefit of the connected and the powerful.

Perhaps — even more than the fact that a real mayoral election is about to take place — the ruling against Emanuel signals that that is about to change.

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