Court rules to put Emanuel back on ballot

Hopeful meets requirement to run for mayor

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Rahm Emanuel is back in the Chicago mayor’s race.

The Illinois Supreme Court returned the former White House chief of staff’s name to the top of the ballot Thursday evening, overturning a lower court ruling that he did not meet the city’s residency requirement to run for mayor.

Mr. Emanuel was the clear front-runner in the race, and the lower court’s decision had thrown the contest into disarray just weeks before the Feb. 22 ballot.

The state Supreme Court voted 7-0 to restore Mr. Emanuel’s candidacy three days after an Illinois Appeals Court booted the Chicago native off the ballot. The appeals court ruling overturned an earlier Chicago elections board decision that Mr. Emanuel qualified as a resident of the city.

“The novel standard [on residency] adopted by the appellate court majority is without any foundation in Illinois law,” the Supreme Court’s ruling said.

Rahm Emanuel discusses the mayoral race in Chicago after being endorsed by U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley in Chicago on Thursday. The state Supreme Court voted 7-0 to restore Mr. Emanuel's candidacy three days after an Illinois Appeals Court booted the Chicago native off the ballot. (Associated Press)

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Rahm Emanuel discusses the mayoral race in Chicago after being endorsed by ... more >

The ruling comes two days after the state's highest court ordered the city to stop printing ballots that did not include Mr. Emanuel’s name.

Longtime Democratic Mayor Richard M. Daley unexpectedly announced plans to step down last fall. Mr. Emanuel quickly announced plans to leave the White House to run for what he had previously called “his dream job.”

Mr. Emanuel, a former Illinois congressman who served almost two years in the Obama administration, has said he always intended to return to Chicago. During his time in Washington, Mr. Emanuel rented out his Chicago house.

Since announcing his candidacy Sept. 30, Mr. Emanuel has dominated the race, garnering national coverage, picking up endorsements and holding a 2-to-1 advantage in the latest polls over his closest rival in the race, former Democratic Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

He also holds a significant fundraising advantage over both Mrs. Moseley Braun and Gery Chico, the other major candidate in the race, with almost $12 million raised to Mr. Chico’s $2.4 million and Mrs. Braun’s $500,000. All three top contenders are Democrats.

The top candidates were set to debate Thursday night in Chicago even as the high court was considering Mr. Emanuel’s eligibility.

Speaking at the start of the televised debate, Mr. Emanuel said, “What I’ve always said is the voters should make the decision about who should be the next mayor.” He said the court ruling allowed voters to do that.

To avoid an April 5 runoff, Mr. Emanuel will have to pull in more than 50 percent of the vote. Early voting begins Monday.

The drama over whether Mr. Emanuel would be allowed to run has sparked national interest in the race, with pundits, politicians and the public alike weighing in on the efficacy of residency requirements and President Obama’s possible influence on the legal battle.

During the appeal, Mr. Emanuel and his opponents continued to campaign as if the front-runner was still in the race, with Mr. Emanuel making appearances and brushing off the controversy. An Associated Press poll released earlier Thursday showed a strong majority of Chicagoans favored allowing Mr. Emanuel to run.

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