- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 23, 2010

Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel cleared two big obstacles Thursday in his bid to qualify as a candidate for Chicago mayor.

The city’s Board of Election Commissioners ruled that Mr. Emanuel meets the residency requirements for the Feb. 22 election and should be on the ballot. The three-member board voted unanimously based on a hearing officer’s overnight recommendation that stated that Mr. Emanuel appears to meet the requirements and his objectors failed to meet the burden of proof to disqualify him.

Candidates are required to live in the city for one year before taking office.

Richard Cowen, the Republican on the commission, said Mr. Emanuel always intended to move back to Chicago, and his intent was the most important issue in the case.

Rahm Emanuel said he was coming back to Chicago,” Mr. Cowen said. “The issue is not whether he was appointed chief of staff. The issue is whether he abandoned his residency. … That’s the test we have to apply.”

Still, Mr. Emanuel, a Democrat and Chicago native leading in the polls, likely will face court challenges before getting a clear path toward winning the seat of retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley, a Democrat.

Those who object to the board’s decision can appeal to the Cook County Circuit Court. The Illinois Supreme Court likely will issue the final ruling.

Burt Odelson, a major objector, said he already has prepared an appeal and that he expects the case to reach the state’s highest court within five weeks.

Mr. Emanuel, 51, has rented his Chicago home while living in Washington. He served as President Obama’s chief of staff from January 2009 until October this year, and was in the House for six years before taking the White House post.

“Voters should ultimately have the right to decide the election - and to vote for me or against me,” Mr. Emanuel said between the recommendation and the board’s decision. “They deserve a swift conclusion to this process so the campaign can focus on the challenges facing the city.”

The hearing officer, Joseph Morris, a Republican and private lawyer, effectively said there was no evidence during three days of testimony last week that suggested that Mr. Emanuel intended to leave Chicago permanently in 2009 to work for the Obama administration.

Mr. Morris also concluded: “Illinois law expressly protects the residential status and electoral rights of Illinois residents who are called to serve the national government,” he wrote in a 35-page ruling, which followed a three-day hearing last week.

He also wrote: “The touchstone of continued residence is the intention of the resident, and not the physical fact of ‘having a place to sleep.’ “

Among the 26 objections raised during the hearing and rejected by Mr. Morris were that Mr. Emanuel was late in filing requisite financial documents, that he has rented his North Side home and that signatures on his candidacy petition had been photocopied.

Another objection stated that candidates are disqualified if they fail to pay a delinquent municipal debt, which includes Mr. Emanuel because he did not buy Chicago parking permits for his vehicles when in Washington. Mr. Morris essentially stated that Mr. Emanuel has no debt on city records so he could not be in arrears.

Story Continues →