Ill. high court: Emanuel can run for Chicago mayor
Thursday, January 27, 2022 8:14 PM

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(Source: Associated Press/AP Online)By DON BABWIN and DEANNA BELLANDI

CHICAGO - Illinois' highest court put Rahm Emanuel back in the race for Chicago mayor Thursday, three days after a lower court threw the former White House chief of staff off the ballot because he had not lived in the city for a full year.

The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Emanuel's favor, saying an appeals court decision that said the candidate needed to be physically present in Chicago was "without any foundation in Illinois law."

"As I said from the beginning, I think the voters deserve the right to make the choice of who should be mayor," Emanuel said shortly after getting word of the high court's action. "I'm not quite sure emotionally where I'm at.

"I'm relieved for the city. I'm relieved for the voters because they need the certainty that's important for them."

Emanuel lived for nearly two years in Washington working for President Barack Obama. He moved back to Chicago in October, after Mayor Richard M. Daley announced he would not seek another term.

When he learned of Thursday's ruling, Emanuel said he immediately called his wife and took a congratulatory call from his old boss, the president.

Political observers said the ruling resurrecting Emanuel's candidacy would probably give him added momentum heading into the last month of the campaign.

Don Rose, a longtime analyst of Chicago politics, said he thought the saga brought would bring Emanuel "even greater sympathy" and could lift him to victory.

"It's over," Rose said. "The only open question is whether he wins it in the first round or whether there's a runoff."

But the other contenders in the race did not give any ground.

"Game on," said Gery Chico, the city's former school board president and one of Emanuel's more prominent rivals. He complained that the recent "drama" surrounding Emanuel had "made this election into a circus instead of a serious debate about the future of Chicago."

A spokeswoman for former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun said she respected the court's decision.

"We will go forward, taking our message to the people of Chicago, (and) we intend to win this election," Renee Ferguson said.

Emanuel never stopped campaigning as the case unfolded. Within minutes of the ruling, he was at a downtown transit station shaking hands. He was scheduled to participate in televised debate later Thursday evening.

The former White House aide has said he always intended to return to Chicago.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Emanuel's attorneys called the appellate court decision "one of the most far-reaching election law rulings" ever issued in Illinois, not only because of its effect on the mayoral race but for "the unprecedented restriction" it puts on future candidates.

His lawyers raised several points, including that the appeals court applied a stricter definition of residency than the one used for voters. They said Illinois courts have never required candidates to be physically present in the state to seek office there.

Monday's surprise ruling threw the mayoral race and Emanuel's campaign into disarray. The following day, the state Supreme Court ordered Chicago elections officials to stop printing ballots without Emanuel's name on them.

Chicago election officials said they had printed nearly 300,000 ballots without Emanuel's name before they abruptly stopped.

Emanuel had been the heavy favorite to lead the nation's third-largest city, and he raised more money than any other candidate vying to replace Daley, who is retiring after more than two decades as mayor.

When Emanuel's candidacy appeared in doubt, the other main candidates in the race moved quickly to try to win over his supporters.

The residency questions have dogged Emanuel ever since he announced his bid. He tried to move back into his house when he returned to Chicago, but the family renting it wanted $100,000 to 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.

The elections board and a Cook County judge had previously ruled in favor of Emanuel, a former congressman, saying he did not abandon his Chicago residency when he went to work at the White House.

The Supreme Court took special note of Emanuel's testimony before the election board in which he listed all the personal items he left in the house in Chicago when he moved to Washington - including his wife's wedding dress, photographs of his children and clothes they wore as newborns, as well as items belonging to his grandfather.

The board "determined that, in this situation, the rental did not show abandonment of the residence," the court wrote. "This conclusion was well supported by the evidence and was not clearly erroneous."

More than two dozen people testified on the residency issue at an election board hearing in December. The three-day hearing got progressively stranger as attorneys gave way to Chicago residents who filed objections to the candidacy, including one man who asked Emanuel if he caused the 1993 siege at Waco, Texas.

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