- The Washington Times - Monday, January 24, 2011

An Illinois court on Monday ordered Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel — President Obama’s former chief of staff — off the ballot over a residency dispute, a decision he says he will appeal to the state Supreme Court.

But with the citywide election less than a month away, time isn’t with Mr. Emanuel, who until now has been considered the race’s front-runner.

The Cook County appeals court voted 2-1 to overturn a previous judge’s ruling to keep his name on the Feb. 22 ballot, saying the Democrat doesn’t meet the one-year residency requirement because he rented out his Chicago home and moved his family to Washington, D.C., to work for Mr. Obama for almost two years.

“We conclude that the candidate neither meets the municipal code’s requirement that he have resided in Chicago for the year preceding the election in which he seeks to participate nor falls within any exception to the requirement,” the appeals court said in its ruling.

Mr. Emanuel has said he always intended to return to Chicago and was only living in Washington at the request of the president.

“I still have a home here. … [I] vote from here, pay property taxes here,” Mr. Emanuel said during a press conference. “I do believe that the people and the city of Chicago deserve the right to make a decision on who they want to be their next mayor.”

The former top Obama aide suggested he shouldn’t be penalized for his stint at the White House.

“When the president asks you to serve the country as his chief of staff, that counts as part of serving your country,” said Mr. Emanuel during a press conference.

Mr. Emanuel said he has “no doubt” he will prevail in his bid to become mayor of Chicago.

“I think obviously this will go do the next level — the [state] Supreme Court,” he said.

Mr. Emanuel, a former Chicago congressman who stepped down from his post as White House chief of staff in October, is one of several candidates seeking to replace outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley, who will not seek a seventh term.

In a recent citywide poll, Mr. Emanuel held a 2-to-1 advantage over his closest rival in the race, former Democratic Sen. Carol Moseley Braun. The Chicago Tribune/WGN survey conducted Jan. 15 to 19 showed 44 percent of likely voters backing Mr. Emanuel, while 21 percent said they favored Ms. Braun.

Ms. Braun called the court ruling a “major milestone for our campaign” and appealed for Mr. Emanuel’s supporters to back her instead.

“I’m extending a hand of friendship to all the fine Chicagoans who have been supporting Mr. Emanuel, and all those who haven’t made their minds up yet,” she said during a press conference.

The Chicago Board of Elections and a Cook County judge previously both ruled in favor of Mr. Emanuel’s residency status, saying they didn’t consider him to have abandoned his Chicago home while he was working in Washington.

But attorney Burt Odelson, who represents two voters who objected to Mr. Emanuel’s candidacy, appealed the decision, which led to Monday’s appellate ruling.

With early voting set to begin Jan. 31, election officials said they can’t wait any longer to start printing ballots, which they say will not have Mr. Emanuel’s name on them.

The Chicago Board of Elections was scheduled to begin printing ballots Monday night, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“We’ve basically hit the go button,” the newspaper reported board spokesman Jim Allen as saying. “We needed to do this on the 18th. We were waiting for this decision. We’re going to press now. We have to.”

A candidate removed from the ballots by the court has until Feb. 15 to file as a write-in, Mr. Allen said.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.