The Chicago election ballots rolling off printers today make Rahm Emanuel’s political nightmare official. They won’t include his name as candidate for mayor.
An appellate court ruling barring him from the race to succeed Mayor Richard M. Daley gave legal imprimatur to the criticism Emanuel has faced since he stepped down as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff in October: that he is a carpetbagger even though he was born in Chicago and served six years as a congressman from its north side.
The Illinois appellate court decision upended the race to lead the third-largest U.S. city by disqualifying Emanuel, 51, at least for now. Backed by Obama and another former boss, President Bill Clinton, he had a 23 percentage-point lead in the latest poll and a campaign treasury four times fuller than his closest opponent’s for the Feb. 22 election.
The court also revived the “political issue of whether Emanuel is a real Chicagoan,” said Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “There have always been questions for the voters whether Rahm is, since he grew up in the suburbs and spent a lot of time in Washington.”
Valerie Jarrett, a fellow Chicagoan and senior adviser to Obama, said today from the White House that the president backs Emanuel’s qualifications to run for mayor.
‘A Terrific Mayor’
“He believes that he’s eligible,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program. “He thinks Rahm would make a terrific mayor.”
The appellate court panel ruled 2-1 yesterday that Emanuel “unquestionably does not satisfy” a requirement that candidates reside in Chicago for one year prior to the election. Emanuel and his family moved to Washington in early 2009 and rented out their home after Obama selected him.
The Emanuel campaign filed its appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court today after submitting a 144-page request last night for it to put the lower-court ruling on hold.
Ben LaBolt, a spokesman, declined to say whether Emanuel is preparing for a write-in campaign -- a moot point if the high court deems him ineligible or doesn’t take the case.
“No harm would result if Emanuel remains on the ballot while this court considers the merits of his position,” Emanuel attorney Michael Kasper wrote. If the ruling is upheld, he said, votes for Emanuel “simply would not be counted.”
While legal experts said the issue could take two weeks to settle, some of the approximately 2 million ballots needed for the election will be printed today and won’t include Emanuel’s name, said Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Early voting begins Jan. 31.
“We’ve got to get the ballots out,” Allen said. “All the files are at the printer now.”
Emanuel has said he always intended to come back to Chicago. At a hearing in December, he cited china, photo albums and a wedding dress that he and his wife left at the house when they moved to Washington.
“I have no doubt that we will, in the end, prevail,” he said at a news conference in a downtown restaurant.
One Illinois legal expert noted that the residency requirement at issue dates to the state’s 1818 constitution.
“We didn’t want nobody that nobody sent,” said Ann Lousin, a professor at Chicago’s John Marshall Law School. “This has been a tradition in Illinois.”
The appellate court’s distinction between requirements for voting and candidacy were “a little bit convoluted,” said David Franklin, a DePaul University law professor.
“It seems much more straightforward to me to say the basic legal concept of residency is the same,” Franklin said.
The field of candidates also includes City Clerk Miguel del Valle, former Chicago school board president Gery Chico and former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun. Chico’s campaign announced today in a statement that he has won the endorsement of the Chicago firefighters union.
If the state’s high court takes the case, Justice Anne Burke may need to decide whether to recuse herself because of her husband’s endorsement of Chico, Simpson said. The judge is married to Chicago Alderman Ed Burke, chairman of the council’s finance committee.
It would be “very surprising” if the Illinois Supreme Court didn’t agree to hear the case, said Dawn Clark Netsch, a professor emeritus at Northwestern University Law School.
“It’s a pretty big legal issue for the state, with substantial legal implications,” she said. “And it’s a legal issue that could come up again.”
There’s no role for the federal courts because it doesn’t raise federal constitutional issues, said Netsch, a former Illinois state senator and comptroller.
Harold Krent, dean of Chicago Kent College of Law, predicted that the state’s highest court will hear the case and rule quickly.
“Otherwise a divided panel would have resolved, for all intents and purposes, the Chicago mayoral election,” Krent said.
The state’s high court is unlikely to issue a final decision in less than two weeks, although a ruling on the request for a stay could come within 48 hours, said Andrew Raucci, a Chicago lawyer who specializes in election law.
Simpson said the ruling will give the other candidates an opportunity to attack the notion that Emanuel is the front-runner.
“His campaign is at a standstill and will be tied up for a couple weeks, so he loses momentum,” he said. “A write-in campaign is not a likely alternative.”
The city’s elections board ruled last month that Emanuel met the requirement of having lived in Chicago for one year before the election. That decision was confirmed by the Cook County Circuit Court.
Emanuel was approaching the majority of support he would need to avoid an April 5 runoff after next month’s first round, according to a WGN-TV/Chicago Tribune poll released Jan. 20. He had the support of 44 percent of those surveyed.
Braun had 21 percent support and Chico 16 percent, with del Valle at 7 percent and 9 percent undecided. The poll of 708 likely registered voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
Braun said she was extending “a hand of friendship to all the fine Chicagoans who have been supporting Rahm and all those that haven’t made up their minds yet.”
Emanuel raised $10.6 million through Jan. 19 for his campaign, including $50,000 from Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs and $100,000 from Kenneth Griffin, chief executive of Chicago-based Citadel LLC, disclosure records show.
Chico, 54, has raised $2.8 million so far, his campaign said in a news release. Braun, 63, raised $445,760, her filing with the Illinois State Board of Elections showed.
Emanuel pointed to the appellate court’s dissenting opinion, by Justice Bertina E. Lampkin, who called the majority’s reasoning “indefensible.”
“How many days may a person stay away from his home before the majority would decide he no longer ‘actually resides’ in it?” Lampkin asked. “A standard which cannot be defined cannot be applied.”
All three judges on the panel are Democrats, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. Ruling against Emanuel were Shelvin Louise Marie Hall and Thomas E. Hoffman, who wrote the majority opinion.
Burton Odelson, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the case, said he was motivated by his clients, attorney Walter Maksym and Thomas McMahon, whom he said had a 30-year career in the Chicago Police Department.
“You have to live in the city in order to be a policeman, a fireman, a teacher, a sanitation worker,” Odelson said in a telephone interview. “Why isn’t the same rule applicable to people who want to run for office? Well, it is.”
Even if Emanuel gets his name on the ballot, the appellate ruling might leave some voters thinking that “there must be something to it,” said Alan Gitelson, a political science professor at Loyola University Chicago.
“All the attention over the days or weeks ahead is going to focus on whether he is a viable resident,” he said, “rather than a viable candidate.”
The case is Maksym v. Board of Election Commissioners of the City of Chicago, 2010-coel-020, Illinois Appellate Court.