Dec 26, 2010 12:27 PM by Chris Welty
CHICAGO (AP) - Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel
cleared an important hurdle in his bid to be Chicago mayor early
Thursday when a hearing officer recommended his name appear on the
February ballot, even though Emanuel spent much of the last two
years living in Washington working for President Barack Obama.
The ruling, which still needs final approval from the Chicago
Board of Election Commissioners, is a political win for Emanuel
because it could help him silence critics who have persistently
argued he isn't a Chicago resident. The board is scheduled to meet
later Thursday and will likely make a decision.
"While the decision rests with the Commissioners, I am
encouraged by this recommendation . . . Chicago voters should
ultimately have the right to decide the election - and to vote for
me or against me," Emanuel said in a statement Thursday.
Election board hearing officer Joseph Morris said evidence
suggests that Emanuel had no intention of terminating his residency
in Chicago, left the city only to work for Obama and often told
friends he intended to live in Washington for no more than two
"Illinois law expressly protects the residential status and
electoral rights of Illinois residents who are called to serve the
national government," Morris, a Republican attorney in private
practice in Chicago, wrote in his 35-page ruling.
Officials have tried to expedite mayoral ballot challenges
before the Feb. 22 vote, but the board's decision is almost sure to
be challenged in the courts.
"The hearing officer is sort of like an Italian traffic signal
- it's a mere suggestion. He is basically giving his opinion,"
Paul Green, a political scientist at Roosevelt University in
Chicago, said before the ruling was issued.
More than two dozen people challenged Emanuel's candidacy,
contending he didn't meet a one-year residency requirement. Emanuel
quit his job as Obama's top aide and moved back to Chicago in
October after Mayor Richard M. Daley announced he wouldn't seek a
Emanuel is part of a crowded field of more than a dozen
candidates, including former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, U.S.
Rep. Danny Davis, former school board president Gery Chico, City
Clerk Miguel del Valle and state Sen. James Meeks, the pastor of a
South Side mega church.
Since returning to Chicago in October to run for mayor, Emanuel
has enjoyed strong name recognition in the race and already has run
several television ads. A recent Chicago Tribune/WGN poll showed
Emanuel as the only candidate in double digits with more than 30
percent support, although 30 percent remained undecided.
In his recommendation, Morris wrote that the question wasn't
whether Emanuel established residency in Illinois in 2010, but
whether he abandoned it. Morris said he found no evidence that
Emanuel had done so, arguing that "the touchstone of continued
residence is the intention of the resident, and not the physical
fact of `having a place to sleep."'
Morris also noted that Emanuel was born and married in Chicago,
owns a home in the city where he still keeps valuable possessions,
has an Illinois driver's license and voted in Chicago in every
election between 1999 and February 2010.
"The preponderance of this evidence establishes that the
candidate never formed an intention to terminate his residence in
Chicago; never formed an intention to establish his residence in
Washington, D.C., or any place other than Chicago; and never formed
an intention to change his residence," Morris wrote.
Morris' ruling, issued just before 2 a.m. Thursday, came after a
marathon three-day hearing last week in which Emanuel was grilled
by a long parade of objectors to his candidacy, many of whom
represented themselves and veered off into questions that had
little to do with Emanuel's place of residence.
The serious, at times strange hearing explored the contents of
the basement of Emanuel's home where he said he left many prized
family possessions, including his wife's wedding dress - further
proof he always intended to return to Chicago, he and his lawyers
A former congressman from Chicago's North Side, Emanuel said he
only moved his family to Washington because he couldn't turn down
Obama's offer to be chief of staff. Emanuel's wife, Amy Rule, and
the couple's three children still live in Washington and will
remain there until the end of the school year.
The hearing focused heavily on Emanuel's home, with objectors
contending he wasn't a resident partly because he rented out his
house when his family joined him in Washington in the summer of
Emanuel said he leased his home for safety and security reasons.
He tried to move back into his house when he returned to Chicago
but the family renting it wanted $100,000 to break the lease and
move out early. The tenant, businessman Rob Halpin, later filed
paperwork to run for mayor against Emanuel, only to withdraw from
the race a short time later.