Former Rep. Rahm Emanuel won a key victory in his quest to get on the ballot for Chicago’s Feb. 22 mayoral race, with local officials ruling that he meets residency requirements needed for candidacy.
Emanuel spent most of the past two years in Washington as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff. But over the past few weeks, Emanuel testified before election commissioners and showed photos of junk stored in his attic to prove he is a Chicagoan for life. The commissioners voted 3-0 Thursday to keep Emanuel on the ballot.
The decision is likely to be appealed and won’t be settled for weeks, but Emanuel framed the election commissioners' recommendation as the final say in a "breaking news" text message to supporters. The board "just ruled Rahm has right to run for mayor & Chi voters have right to choose," his campaign wrote in the text.
The Chicago Tribune reported the vote and quoted Burt Odelson, the attorney for those who objected to Emanuel's candidacy, as saying his goal is "to get this through the courts as soon as possible."
The commissioners' vote came after hearing officer Joseph Morris issued a 69-page recommendation early Thursday to the full slate of election commissioners before their final decision. Morris wrote that Emanuel's opponents had not established that the Democrat, "a resident of Chicago, abandoned his status as such a resident."
"In any event, his absence from Illinois during that time in question is excused, for purposes of the safeguarding and retention of his status as a resident and elector, by express operation of Illinois law," Morris wrote in his recommendation, which is posted on the Chicago Tribune’s website.
Emanuel issued a statement after the recommendation, saying he was "encouraged." Emanuel resigned his post in the White House on Oct. 1.
"It 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," he said. "Chicago voters should ultimately have the right to decide the election — and to vote for me, or against me."
Emanuel said Chicagoans "deserve a swift conclusion to this process" so his campaign can focus on the Windy City's challenges.
The Tribune reported that Odelson called Morris' recommendation "shallow in reciting the facts."
"I was extremely disappointed we had to wait that long for such a poor product. This wasn't a difficult case. It only became difficult because of all of the objectors," Odelson said, according to the Tribune. The attorney argued that Emanuel's residency actions, such as amending his 2009 tax returns to be an Illinois resident, were "self-serving" and only came after Mayor Richard Daley decided against seeking another term.
During the hearings, Emanuel said the tax returns had been filed incorrectly; he said it was a mistake and that he'd only signed the incorrect returns after a “cursory review."