President Obama launched his political career in Chicago by maneuvering to keep a rival off the ballot in a state Senate campaign. Fifteen years later, he is reaching back from the White House into the city’s bruising political ring – this time in an effort to shield former aide Rahm Emanuel from losing a ballot dispute of his own in a hotly contested mayoral race.
The president called Emanuel, his former White House chief of staff, on Monday after an Illinois appellate court declared him ineligible to appear on the ballot because he does not meet the city’s residency requirement. On Tuesday morning, Obama sent senior adviser Valerie Jarrett out on the television circuit, where she told an ABC interviewer that the president “believes that [Emanuel is] eligible.”
Emanuel grabbed the baton from his former boss. His lawyers invoked Obama’s name repeatedly in legal briefs filed Tuesday with the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing that the appellate ruling would also make the president ineligible to run for a city office in his home town. And Emanuel told supporters that he was inspired to push ahead by the president’s history of ignoring critics in the “birther” movement.
“I worked for a president that has been told he’s not from this country,” Emanuel told supporters Tuesday morning, according to a person who attended the event. He added: “You never get distracted by the noise.”
The case could be resolved as soon as Wednesday. The state Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear Emanuel’s appeal. It issued an order putting the appellate ruling on hold and ordered that for now no ballots be printed without Emanuel’s name on them.
In their Monday ruling, state appellate judges Thomas Hoffman and Shelvin Louise Marie Hall rejected decisions from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners and a Cook County judge who found that Emanuel met the criteria for residency because he was working for Obama and he maintained a Chicago home, which he rented out.
Hoffman and Hall said Emanuel will not have lived in Chicago for a year before the Feb. 22 election, writing that a candidate “must have actually resided within the municipality for one year prior to the election, a qualification that the candidate unquestionably does not satisfy.”
Obama had been noticeably absent from the race since last fall, when he said Emanuel would make a “terrific mayor” and feted his outgoing aide with an elaborate East Room sendoff ceremony.
The president’s reentry into the contest could prove helpful for Emanuel, whose campaign cited Jarrett’s comments in a news release featuring support from “opinion leaders.”
Emanuel has until now been the clear front-runner – far outpacing his rivals in fundraising and opinion polls – largely because of his close connection to the president, who is viewed as a local hero.
While the residency question is being settled, a swirl of speculation erupted Tuesday about whether political forces are driving the issue.
Emanuel’s rivals have denied any involvement in the legal challenge to his candidacy, brought by two residents represented by an elections lawyer who worked for George W. Bush in the contested 2000 presidential contest.
January 25, 2011, 2:59 PM EST
By John McCormick and Andrew M. Harris
Jan. 25 (Bloomberg) — The Illinois Supreme Court agreed to hear an expedited appeal from Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, of a decision disqualifying him from Chicago’s Feb. 22 mayoral election.
The high court also ordered the city’s election officials to include Emanuel’s name as it starts to print ballots today. The third-largest U.S. city begins early voting Jan. 31 for a successor to Mayor Richard M. Daley.
“The emergency motion by petitioner Rahm Emanuel to expedite consideration of the petition for leave to appeal is allowed,” the court wrote, stating that it would only consider briefs filed in the appellate court. “Oral argument will not be entertained.”
Earlier in the day, the court granted a stay that put on hold the printing of ballots without Emanuel’s name.
“The Board of Elections is directed that if any ballots are printed while this Court is considering this case, the ballots should include the name of petitioner Rahm Emanuel as a candidate for Mayor of the City of Chicago,” the court wrote.
Emanuel’s attorneys argued that the Illinois appellate court ruling was overly broad and would disqualify other city residents such as Obama, congressmen and even business travelers.
“An individual whose company assigns him to work for a month on a special project in New York would presumably fail this standard because he would not have ‘actually resided’ in Chicago during the full year,” the appeal stated.
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 he took the job in the Obama administration.
While legal experts said the issue could take two weeks to settle, some of the approximately 2 million ballots were to be printed today without Emanuel’s name, said Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
“This is an important first step in ensuring that voters are not disenfranchised and that they ultimately get to choose the next Mayor of Chicago,” Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Emanuel campaign, said in a statement after the stay was ordered.
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 stored at the house when they moved to Washington.
The Illinois appellate court decision upended the race to lead the city by disqualifying Emanuel. 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.
The court 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.
White House Support
“He believes that he’s eligible,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program. “He thinks Rahm would make a terrific mayor.”
Emanuel sought to maintain his campaign’s legitimacy today by announcing his endorsement by Teamsters Joint Council 25, which has 30,000 members in Chicago.
“In light of yesterday’s attempt to remove our candidate from the ballot, the Teamsters want to pledge our full support to Rahm Emanuel and the validity of his candidacy,” said John T. Coli, the union’s president. “The courts should not be playing games with what the majority of Chicagoans obviously want.”
Emanuel declined to say whether he will pursue a case at the federal level if he fails in state court. Emanuel also declined to say whether he will considered a write-in campaign – - a moot point if the high court deems him ineligible.
“I’m confident in the argument we’re making about the fact that I never lost my residency,” he said at a produce market and warehouse on the city’s southwest side. “Working for President Obama, as his chief of staff, at his request, does not mean I gave up my residency.”
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.
State Supreme Court 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.
There’s no role for the federal courts because it doesn’t raise federal constitutional issues, said Dawn Clark Netsch, a professor emeritus at Northwestern University Law School and former Illinois state senator.
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, 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.
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. “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.
–With assistance from Tim Jones in Chicago. Editors: Flynn McRoberts, Brenda Batten, David Rovella
To contact the reporters on this story: John McCormick in Chicago at email@example.com; Andrew M Harris in Chicago at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Flynn McRoberts at email@example.com
By Judy Keen, USA TODAY
The former White House chief of staff, who left that job in October to run for mayor in his hometown, will appeal the 2-1 ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Quick action is likely: The non-partisan election is Feb. 22; early voting begins Jan. 31. The winner will replace Mayor Richard Daley, who is retiring.
“I have no doubt that we will in the end prevail at this effort,” Emanuel said. He called the ruling “just one turn in the road.”
Burt Odelson, who represents two Chicagoans seeking to remove Emanuel from the ballot, likes his chances in the Supreme Court, where he says the law will be the core issue, not Emanuel’s stature.
“What’s at stake is one of the highest offices in the United States, not who this is … and his ability to raise money,” Odelson says.
Emanuel has outpaced his rivals in support and cash. He announced last week that he has raised more than $10 million and a Chicago Tribune/WGN Poll found that 44% of registered voters supported him. If no candidate gets 50% of the vote, there will be a runoff election in April.
Those candidates, says political analyst Thom Serafin, have a chance to “pick up some traction” while the viability of Emanuel’s campaign is in doubt. “Everybody in town was counting on Rahm winning, and now all of a sudden (other candidates) are in play,” he says.
The appellate court overturned rulings by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners and a Cook County judge that Emanuel met residency requirements. He was a congressman representing a Chicago district before joining President Obama’s administration in January 2009. He rented out his Chicago home and moved his family to Washington.
The appeals court said the city’s municipal code uses the word “reside” to mean that a candidate must “actually live” in the city “rather than having legal voting residence.”
In a dissent, Justice Bertina Lampkin wrote that Emanuel did not forfeit his residency while he served as Obama’s chief of staff. At a news conference Monday, Emanuel said, “I still own a home here … vote from here, pay property taxes here.”
Michael Dorf, an election lawyer not involved in the case, says, “Common sense clearly works in Emanuel’s favor.” The Illinois Supreme Court is not obligated to accept the case, but Dorf believes it will.