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Rahm Emanuel Supreme Court Decision: Can Run For Chicago Mayor, Residency Is Valid

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CHICAGO -- Illinois' highest court put Rahm Emanuel back in the race for Chicago mayor Thursday, three days after a lower court threw the former White House chief of staff off the ballot because he had not lived in the city for a full year.

The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Emanuel's favor, saying an appeals court decision that said the candidate needed to be physically present in Chicago was "without any foundation in Illinois law."

"As I said from the beginning, I think the voters deserve the right to make the choice of who should be mayor," Emanuel said shortly after getting word of the high court's action. "I'm not quite sure emotionally where I'm at."

When he learned of the ruling, Emanuel said he immediately called his wife and took a congratulatory call from his old boss, President Barack Obama.

In a 7-0 decision, the Illinois Supreme Court called the appellate court's Monday decision "fundamentally flawed" and said the judges were not "justified in tossing out 150 years of settled residency law in favor of its own preferred standard." (Read the Supreme Court decision here.)

From Thursday's ruling (emphasis added):

Although adopting a previously unheard-of test for residency that would have applied to all future municipal elections, the court made no attempt to explain what its standard means. The only hint given by the appellate court is that, whatever its standard means, this candidate did not satisfy it. The appellate court never explained what it meant by "actually reside" or "actually live." Indeed, as its discussion of section 3.1-10-5(d) reflects, the entire appellate court opinion can be read as nothing more than an extended exercise in
question begging, in which the appellate court sets forth the question to be answered as what it means to "reside" (No. 1-11-0033, slip op. at 11), and concludes that it means to have "actually resided" (No. 1-11-0033, slip op. at 21). "

Emanuel, who has said he always intended to return to Chicago and was only living in Washington at the request of the president, had asked the Supreme Court to overturn the appeals court ruling. Within minutes of the ruling, Emanuel was at a downtown Chicago public transit station shaking hands with residents.

He never stopped campaigning as the controversy evolved. His spokesman said Emanuel was en route to the campaign appearance when he received word of the ruling and was scheduled to participate in televised debate Thursday evening.

In their appeal, Emanuel's attorneys called Monday's appeal court ruling "one of the most far-reaching election law rulings" ever issued in Illinois, not only because of its effect on the mayoral race but for "the unprecedented restriction" it puts on future candidates. (Read the appellate court decision here.)

His lawyers raised several points, including that the appeals court applied a stricter definition of "residency" than the one used for voters. They say Illinois courts have never required candidates to be physically present in the state to seek office there.

Emanuel, who has been leading all of his opponents in fundraising and in polls, was confident that the Supreme Court would reverse Monday's decision.

"I am clear that I think that we will succeed because of the thoroughness of our argument," he said Tuesday at an event where he received an endorsement from the Teamsters. He said he was "more determined to see this through so the people have a right to make the choice for themselves."

The residency questions have dogged Emanuel ever since he announced his candidacy last fall. Emanuel tried to move back into his house when he returned to Chicago but the family renting it wanted $100,000 to break the lease and move out early. The tenant, businessman Rob Halpin, later filed paperwork to run for mayor against Emanuel, only to withdraw from the race a short time later.

The Supreme Court was also impressed with Emanuel's testimony before the city's election board in which he listed all the personal items in the house he rented in Chicago when he moved to Washington - including his wife's wedding dress, photographs of his children and clothes they wore from the hospital as well as items belonging to his grandfather.

"The Board determined that, in this situation, the rental did not show abandonment of the residence," the court wrote. "This conclusion was well supported by the evidence and was not clearly erroneous."

More than two dozen people testified on the residency issue at a Chicago Board of Elections hearing in December. The three-day hearing got progressively stranger as attorneys gave way to Chicago residents who filed objections to his candidacy, including one man who asked Emanuel if he caused the 1993 siege at Waco, Texas.

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners and a Cook County judge have previously both ruled in favor of Emanuel, a former congressman, saying he didn't abandon his Chicago residency when he went to work at the White House.

Before Thursday's ruling, a lot of pressure was put on the Illinois Supreme Court. Though some voters and politicians believe the appellate court's decision was the right one, the majority seemed to be in favor of Emanuel being able to run for mayor.

Former Republican governor James Thompson and attorneys general Tyrone Fahner and James Ryan wrote a letter to the State Journal-Register this week, calling the appellate court's decision "perverse" and urging the Supreme Court to "correct this error." NBC Chicago shared a portion of the letter Thursday:

For 144 years, Illinois law has been clear: a resident who leaves the state temporarily with an intent to return does not lose his status as a resident. However, the appellate court made a dramatic departure from this principle. It adopted a brand new standard, holding that to be a "resident" for purposes of the municipal code, one must physically live here, and that even absence as a public servant does not preserve one's residence.

Under this standard, Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama and Adlai Stevenson each ceased being "residents" when they left to serve our country.

Justice Bertina Lampkin, in dissent, called this "a new and undefined standard for determining candidate residency requirements despite the plethora of clear, relevant and well-established precedent that has been used by our circuit courts and election boards for decades."

We agree. We fear that the appellate court's decision has the perverse effect of punishing Mr. Emanuel for his service to our country. And we hope that the Illinois Supreme Court will correct this error and find Mr. Emanuel to be a resident for the purpose of his candidacy for mayor of Chicago.

Emanuel joined former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, former Chicago Board of Education President Gery Chico and City Clerk Miguel del Valle in a televised debate following Thursday's ruling.

"I have banned the word 'resident' in Scrabble in our household," Emanuel said Thursday night. "I never want to see it again. Even if you get it on a triple word, you're not allowed to use it."

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For those interested in the Chicago mayor's race in general, check out our live blog of tonight's debate here.

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View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

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Statement of Langdon D. Neal, Chairman of the Chicago Election Board: "The printing has moved ahead steadily, working all three shifts since Tuesday. We are well into the process with more than 1 million ballots printed." "It's good to have certainty in the citywide contests launch Early Voting at all 51 sites and start processing absentee-ballot applications on Monday."

"We will be giving voters from about 10 wards notices that there are court cases pending in certain aldermanic contests. These notices will remind the voters that they may vote now or vote later, but once they cast a ballot, there are no do-overs. Under the law, voters cannot return to change their votes for any reason."

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We will be live blogging the Chicago mayoral debate tonight at 7 p.m. CDT. Stay tuned!

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Rahm Emanuel told a group of reporters Thursday that he received a call of support from President Obama following the Supreme Court's decision.

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Burt Odelson, the lawyer who has led the challenge against Rahm Emanuel from the first, spoke to NBC Chicago about today's ruling against him.

"I feel good, as a lawyer, because we did win in the appellate court," Odelson said. "I think we should have won, but I respect the Supreme Court's decision. It's the law of the land."

Watch Odelson speak:

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

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More from the Court's ruling:

So there will be no mistake, let us be entirely clear. This court’s decision is based on the following and only on the following: (1) what it means to be a resident for election purposes was clearly established long ago, and Illinois law has been consistent on the matter since at least the 19th Century; (2) the novel standard adopted by the appellate court majority is without any foundation in Illinois law; (3) the Board’s factual findings were not against the manifest weight of the evidence; and (4) the Board’s decision was not clearly erroneous.

Two justices concurred "specially," meaning they filed their own opinion agreeing with the ruling but disagreeing with the reasoning. "The result in this case is in no way as clear-cut as the majority makes it out to be," Justices Freeman and Burke write.

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The Emanuel camp is setting up an impromptu appearance for the candidate at a downtown "L" stop. From a campaign email:

Mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel will appear at the Clark/Lake L stop. 5:15 PM CST Clark/Lake L Stop (lower level) 100/124 West Lake Street Chicago, IL OPEN PRESS*

We're guessing he might be running a little late, but we doubt that'll bother him too much.

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"Appellate court judgment reversed; circuit court judgment affirmed."

With those eight words, the Illinois Supreme Court ended a week of drama (dare we say "dRahma"?) surrounding the Emanuel campaign for Chicago mayor.

All seven justices on the Court voted to overturn the ruling kicking him off the ballot. The unanimous decision is a tremendous boon to Rahm's campaign, and sure makes those two appellate court judges look a bit foolish.

Victory in hand, Rahm will now concentrate on the mayoral debate, which starts in less than two hours.

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From Rich Miller at the Capitol Fax:

4:44 pm - I’m hearing the Rahm Emanuel decision is going to be handed down any minute now.

4:46 pm - Maybe not. Just talked with the Supreme Court again. Hang loose, but don’t stray far.

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@ChiTribCloutSt tweets:

Illinois Supreme Court expected to issue Rahm Emanuel Chicago mayor's race decision at 4:45 p.m.

Four more minutes, people...

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...and unless there's word from the Court before then, Rahm will be there.

Details on the debate: it'll air at 7 p.m. Central time tonight, on WGN-TV and streaming live at this link. All four "major" mayoral candidates will be there: Emanuel, Gery Chico, Miguel del Valle, and Carol Moseley Braun. Two others, Patricia Watkins and Dock Walls, polled below 5 percent and weren't invited. Hosts are the Chicago Tribune and the City Club of Chicago; moderators will be Micah Matierre and Bruce Dold.

It'll be interesting to see how the residency issue plays out. Unless he gets a big win beforehand, we imagine Rahm will steer clear from it. Or will he take the bull by the horns? Will one of his opponents take a shot at him on it? Either way, should be good television.

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First Tiger Woods, then Miley Cyrus... now Rahm Emanuel gets the Taiwanese animation treatment. Teaser: he's naked the whole time. Watch here.

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The Emanuel camp got a bit of unrelated good news today. The Hill reports that the man who took Rahm's place in the IL-5 House seat, Mike Quigley, is set to endorse Rahm for mayor today.

He was slated to make the announcement at noon today, but we haven't seen any coverage of it. Either he postponed the endorsement, or else everyone's too busy waiting for this Supreme Court decision to write about it.

UPDATE: It actually happened; here's evidence. Looks like it was option (b).

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HuffPost Chicago blogger Albert Huber writes about how the Emanuel campaign has spun the appellate court's decision against him beautifully, turning him from a Hollywood/DC golden boy to Chicago's native son and a rallying-cry underdog:

The narrative Emanuel's camp is constructing, with not just a little help from the Sun-Times and the Tribune, is one of service and disenfranchisement. Rahm Emanuel is a true Chicago man whose only reason for leaving was to answer the call of his country, a noble action indeed. Now you, the people of Chicago, are being punished for his good deeds. You are being disenfranchised and denied the opportunity to pick the next mayor of Chicago.

This is a bold story to offer from a candidate who has handily out-fundraised his opponents with a large sum of out-of-state cash. According to the Sun-Times, about a quarter of his campaign contributors are non-local. This includes many people from his "0,000 club": those who gave at least 0,000 before new campaign contribution limits kicked in this year. The list of people giving from outside Chicago includes Hollywood big shots like David Geffen, Steven Spielberg (who just gave ,000), and Haim and Cheryl Saban.

If you believe that money is what wins elections, then it's hard to reconcile "Let Chicago Decide" with Emanuel's campaign so far. He has run by far the most non-local campaign and has given non-Chicagoans the opportunity to have a major impact on the next mayor of Chicago. This issue raised eyebrows in the media before the court's decision but was abandoned (along with pretty much any other issue in this mayoral race) in favor of a much sexier story.

Read the whole post here.

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The citizens of Chicago -- or its political junkies, at least -- are holding their breaths this hour, as sources suggest that a ruling is imminent in the Rahm Emanuel residency case.

The Illinois Supreme Court will decide if the former White House Chief of Staff met the legal requirement of residing in the city for a year before running for mayor. If they rule in his favor, he'll return to a race he was already leading by a mile, having rallied even some of his perennial critics behind his cause.

If they rule against him, the mayoral election is suddenly wide open.

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ABC Chicago's Dan Lopez reports that the Illinois Supreme Court will hear Emanuel's case.

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The ruling that (at least temporarily) kicked Rahm Emanuel off the Chicago mayoral ballot was decided by two judges on an Illinois appellate court bench.

Turns out, both of those judges are politically beholden to a backer of Rahm Emanuel's main rival.

The Chicago Tribune reported last night that Judges Thomas E. Hoffman and Shelvin Louise Marie Hall were both slated on the judicial ballot by Edward Burke, the powerful 14th Ward alderman who is also the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party's judicial slating committee.

Oh, and there's more. Read about it here.

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@ lynnsweet : Sweet blog Rahm Emanuel press conference after Illinois Appellate Court decision tossing him off Chicago mayor ballot http://bit.ly/dR4urJ

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The Illinois Supreme Court granted a stay Tuesday that allows Rahm Emanuel's name to stay on the ballot until a final decision is reached. This comes after the Chicago Board of Elections announced it would begin printing ballots without his name on them.

A portion of the ruling obtained by the Capitol Fax Blog:

“Emergency motion for stay pending appeal is allowed in part.

“The appellate court decision is stayed. Board of Election is directed that if any ballots are printed while this court is considering the case the ballots should include the name of petitioner Rahm Emanuel as a candidate for the mayor of City of Chicago.

“That part of the motion requesting expedited consideration of the petition for leave to appeal remains pending.”

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One of President Obama's top advisors, Valerie Jarrett, appeared on "Good Morning America" Tuesday and said that Obama thinks Rahm Emanuel should be able to run for mayor.

"I think that he believes that [Rahm is] eligible and I believe that he believes that Rahm will pursue his appeal in the courts," Jarrett said. "And as he said then, he thinks Rahm would make a terrific mayor.”

Read more here.

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He did it again.

Burt Odelson, known by some as "The Rahmstopper," has been fighting for months to get Rahm Emanuel removed from the ballot, and on Monday, he was victorious. Odelson has been getting candidates removed from the ballot in Illinois for many years. He has challenged both Democrats and Republicans--and been pretty successful. HuffPost Chicago wrote about Odelson's history (and political connections) earlier this month:

Odelson is a longtime election lawyer, a hired gun who has worked with everyone from President Bush and his dimpled chads in Florida to Brian Buchanan, a Joliet plumber running for Will County state's attorney.

He's fought to influence recounts and challenge ballots, keep candidates on the ballot and kick them off.

WATCH Odelson react to today's ruling here:

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

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Rahm Emanuel will be at Waveland Bowl in Chicago tonight. He'll be greeting bowlers, and hopefully enjoying an ice cold beer after a stressful day. Catch him there at 8:15 p.m.

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Sam Stein reports:

Rahm Emanuel's mayoral campaign issued a late-afternoon motion on Monday hoping to reverse what could be a disastrous decision from an Illinois Appellate Court earlier in the day.

The campaign asked that the court's decision, which ruled that Emanuel did not qualify as a Chicago resident and was therefore unable to hold the mayor's office, be stayed until a higher court - the state Supreme Court - weigh in on the matter. In addition, it urged that the board of elections keep Emanuel's name on any ballot printed. Earlier in the day, the Chicago Elections Board placed an order for the printing of two million ballots without Emanuel's name on them.

Read more here.

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Forgive the less-than-stunning video quality.

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Yes, people could add his name to the ballot. But if he isn't eligible to serve, that won't really matter. Read more here.

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Rahm Emanuel’s supporters are rallying at 5 p.m. Central time this afternoon, at the corner of Dearborn and Washington downtown. The location’s no coincidence -- that’s the headquarters of the Chicago Board of Elections. According to Emanuel's (real) Twitter feed, the rally is for "Rahm’s right 2 b on the ballot and let Chicagoans choose."

Spokesman Ben LaBolt told reporters at the Emanuel press conference this afternoon that the maybe-candidate won’t be attending the rally; it’s just something his supporters are putting together, he said. “Completely spontaneously, of course,” quipped the Sun-Times’s veteran political hand Carol Marin.

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HuffPost blogger and attorney Emma Ruby-Sachs weighs in on today's court ruling:

While we can haggle about language when interpreting laws, we can also take a big picture look at the purpose of a particular piece of legislation and the intention of its drafters. The Illinois statute makes all kinds of exceptions to the strict interpretation of the word residency because it makes sense to allow certain people to leave a state and still maintain their allegiance and investment in it. When one serves in the armed forces, one is not forced to give up residency. The same goes for an individual called up to serve in the White House: they are acting in the public good (granted, it's a loose version of the term "good").

The point is that, when an individual relocates to serve the highest ranking public official in the country, he should not be penalized afterwards. He certainly should not be penalized for refusing to waste money by keeping a house in a city in which he no longer lives. He should not be penalized for asking his wife and children to live in the same city as him. These are not reasonable requirements and they should not be practices reinforced by the courts.

Read the whole thing here.

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Mayoral candidate Carol Moseley Braun struck a tone of unity and consensus at a press conference in, of all places, a downtown apartment building this afternoon. She described the court ruling as “a major milestone for our campaign,” but pointed out that it doesn’t “give one unemployed person a job,” emphasizing that she’d continue to work on improving the city as she had. She also repeatedly said that her campaign was, and had always been, a “coalition of conscience,” emphasizing the diversity of her support by likening it to “a little United Nations.”

And Moseley Braun reached out to one group in particular -- Rahm Emanuel supporters.

“I am extending a hand of friendship to all the fine Chicagoans who have been supporting Mr. Emanuel,” she said, already making a play for the forty-something percent of the city that said it would support the former Chief of Staff. When asked how she thought the ruling would affect the mayor’s race, she quipped, “Well, it’s one less candidate, isn’t it?” Moseley Braun was flanked by prominent supporters, including U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, and Rev. Jesse Jackson, who took the podium to speak after she left. Jackson emphasized the importance of the concept of residency for requiring city police, firefighters and teachers to live within city limits -- although, as one reporter pointed out, this ruling would have little bearing on such issues.

The awkwardness of the venue was apparent after the press conference. As a crowd of reporters waited for elevators down from the seventh-floor conference room, shaking hands with Rev. Jackson and Rep. Rush as they passed, one anxious-looking woman stood clutching a few shirts and waiting. She’d apparently just done her laundry in the adjacent laundry room and needed an “up” elevator back to her apartment. Eye contact with Rev. Jackson was assiduously avoided.-- Will Guzzardi

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