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Election board gets it right on Emanuel

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

When a man tells an interviewer on national TV that his one great ambition, after serving as chief of staff to the president of the United States, is to run for mayor some day in his hometown, Chicago, that’s a pretty good indication he feels he never left town.

That would be Rahm Emanuel.

When a man continues to vote from his Chicago address, though he’s on duty with the president in Washington, that’s a pretty good idea he’s a Chicagoan through and through.

That would be Rahm Emanuel.

When a man rents out his Chicago house but stores precious family keepsakes, including his wife’s wedding dress, in a crawl space, that’s a pretty good clue he thinks of that house as his true home, not some rental property.

That would be Rahm Emanuel.

Fact is — and even the most rabid anti-Rahm wingnut must know this — Emanuel’s bona fides as a true Chicagoan cannot be denied, so why are we even having this discussion?

Because Emanuel kind of goofed.

When he rented out his Ravens-wood house while serving in Washington, he created just enough doubt about his legal residency to fire up opponents looking to get him bounced off the ballot for mayor.

For a man famous for seeing all the angles, that seems strikingly out of character to us — and maybe that’s the real lesson to be learned from this silly flap:

Rahm Emanuel is a Chicagoan, sure, but he’s not necessarily the perfectly agile political operative some folks would have you believe.

Joe Morris, serving as a hearing officer for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, showed good sense Thursday when he ruled in Emanuel’s favor, saying that residency is about more than “having a place to sleep.”

And the three-member Board of Elections showed good sense in following Morris’ recommendation to leave Emanuel’s name on the ballot.

Morris and the Board ruled that once Emanuel had established residency in Chicago — lo, those many years ago — it became his opponents’ responsibility to prove he had “abandoned” that residency — up and left for real and good.

And that’s an almost impossible hurdle to jump.

This, of course, won’t be the last word on the matter. The challenge to Emanuel’s residency now will work its way through the courts.

Emanuel’s foes will make the argument that the Board of Election’s logic is upside down and, in fact, it is Emanuel’s responsibility to prove he meets the residency requirements as set by law — not their responsibility to prove he abandoned them.

Good luck with that, folks. Only the most mindlessly literal-minded judge would dare to rule that a man who goes to Washington to directly serve his country and his president — every bit like a soldier who goes off to war — has forfeited his legal right to call his hometown home.

Or so we sincerely hope.

A lot of good people are running for mayor. More than a few of them arguably might make a better mayor than Emanuel. But it would be a travesty if the voters of Chicago were denied the chance to decide that for themselves.

Let the best candidate, not the best election lawyer, win.

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