Emanuel Has Chicago Residency for Ballot, Board Says

President Obama's Former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel
President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Photographer: Tim Boyle/Bloomberg

Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, is a Chicago resident and can run for mayor, election commissioners decided.

The Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago made its ruling today, the Associated Press reported. At issue was whether Emanuel met the requirement of having lived in Chicago for one year before the election.

Burt Odelson, the attorney leading the drive to get Emanuel kicked off the mayoral ballot, said he will appeal the board’s ruling in court, according to the AP.

“I knew this was going to happen,” Odelson said, according to the news service. “The facts are the facts. The law is the law, but it depends on how you interpret the law.”

The root of the Emanuel dispute is the 2009 decision by the former Chicago-area congressman to vacate his seat and accept Obama’s appointment as White House chief of staff. Emanuel and his family moved to Washington in early 2009 and rented their North Side home.

Emanuel maintains he always intended to come back to Chicago. At a three-day hearing last week, he cited china, photo albums and a wedding dress that his wife and he left at the house when they moved to Washington.

“The candidate in 2009 and 2010 did not abandon his status as a resident of Chicago, and so remained a resident of Chicago,” Joseph A. Morris, the hearing officer who presided over the session, wrote in an advisory opinion released today before the board’s ruling.

Intent to Return

Commissioner Richard Cowen, a Republican, said he agreed with Morris’s conclusion that Emanuel always intended to return, the AP reported.

“Rahm Emanuel said he was coming back to Chicago,” Cowen said, according to the news service. “The issue is not whether he was a resident at the time he was appointed chief of staff. The issue is whether he abandoned his residency.”

Emanuel said in a statement before the board ruled that Morris’s opinion “affirms what I have said all along -- that the only reason I left town was to serve President Obama and that I always intended to return.”

Emanuel, 51, is seeking to succeed retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley in a field of candidates that includes U.S. Representative Danny Davis; City Clerk Miguel del Valle; former Chicago school board President Gery Chico; and former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun.

Illinois state Senator James Meeks, minister of one of the city’s largest churches, dropped out of the race today, saying that the remaining four black candidates are splitting the community’s vote and diluting its power, according to the website of WGN and the Chicago Tribune.

Without a Home

Opponents say Emanuel isn’t qualified to run because he has no permanent home in Chicago. Odelson noted that David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Obama, kept his Chicago house without renting it when he moved to the nation’s capital.

Emanuel’s current residency was complicated by the refusal of the tenants in his home, Robert and Lori Halpin, to move out before their lease expires in June. He is currently renting another residence in Chicago, while his family remains in Washington.

Emanuel held an early lead in the mayoral race, according to a poll released Dec. 15 by the Chicago Tribune. He won the support of 32 percent of those questioned, with 30 percent undecided. All other candidates ranked in the single digits.

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