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Man on Five: The Chicago Mayoral Race

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To understand how Chicago politics works one need only do a doctoral thesis on the Daley I mayoral years, the Daley II mayoral years -- both of which turned Chicago into The City That Works -- or watch a West Wing-like television series that I may have to co-write, Man on Five, which is insider code for Da Mayor of Chicago, whose office is on the fifth floor of City Hall. But right in your face, situated as you step off the elevator with its highly polished brass doors.

A few days ago Rahm Emanuel, former Illinois Congressman and, until recently, President Obama's Chief of Staff, was the front runner to win the February 22 mayoral election. It looked neat and played like Chicago style Monopoly. The highly esteemed Richard M. Daley, son of the revered Mayor Richard J. Daley and brother of the well respected Bill Daley, the former Secretary of Commerce and midwest head of Jamie Dimon's J. P. Morgan Chase who replaced Rahm Emanuel as President Obama's Chief of Staff as Former Chief of Staff Emanuel returned to Chicago to fill the Mayor of Chicago's office on five when our beloved Mayor Richard M. Daley announced he would not run for a 7th term.

Chicago cried out in emotional protest. We love Richie Daley, have grown up with him and his family, and adore our hard working first lady Maggie. It is generally known that she is the smiling smart woman behind the Man on Five.

Rahm Emmanuel returned to Chicago, quickly raised 12 million dollars, and, until a few days ago, had garnered 44% of the public support and was getting 40% of the Black vote, even with two viable black candidates in the race. Comedian Andy Samberg, who plays "Rahmbo" on Saturday Night Live, turned up at a fund raiser last week to good naturedly imitate the tough mayoral candidate who knows a lot of four letter words. The shoo-in and his myriad supporters laughed.

Chicago awoke the next morning -- on the day the ballots were to be printed and a week before early voting -- to the news that the front runner for mayor of Chicago would not be on the ballot, not even in small print, because of the Appellate Court's decision on its interpretation of Candidate residency rules. Chicago was stunned. How can a man who has lived here all his life, except for his college years at Sarah Lawrence, his United States congressional years, and his service to our Commander in Chief as Chief of Staff be denied residency. Do military men lose their residency when they serve their Commander in Chief on the armed services? Nooo!

Rahm has voted here all along, maintained a residency here with boxes of clothes and prized possessions stored in the basement, maintained his Chicago driver's license, paid his real estate taxes here and kept a local bank account. He leased his Lincoln Park residency temporarily at his broker's practical suggestion. Then bizarrely (even for Chicago), the tenant refused to move out and decided to run for mayor himself! Rahm moved into a highly respected entrepreneur's private art loft, renting it and campaigned tough and hard while his team tried to nudge the tenant who metaphorically nailed his shoes to the floor of the Rahm Residency out the door. Great fodder for the press, bad news for the city of Chicago. The very nice Gery Chico, former chief of staff to Mayor Daley II and Former head of the Chicago Public Schools, slowly moved to the top slot with former Senator Carol Moseley Brown close behind. By now we are into Episode III of Man on Five!

By the next day, Rahm's name was returned to the ballot until the Illinois Supreme Court ruled on Rahm's appeal. One of the five Court Justices is my favorite, Judge Ann Burke, who is married to the very powerful Ward Boss, Alderman Ed Burke, chairman of the Cook County's Democratic Judicial slating committee, i. e. picks the party's judges for the ballot, who strongly favors Rahm's opponent Gery Chico. The Supreme Court Justice refused to recuse herself. In my series, the Illinois Supreme, Anne would be one of the star characters. By now we are into episode four of Man on Five, and the ratings should be Soprano-esque.

There was vigorous suspense on how Man on Five would turn out, television being a ratings driven business. But then so is politics. The ratings and the public anointed Rahm, and suddenly he was being touted as a Vuitton-bagger and homeless person. In my fifth episode of Man on Five, I would give the tough minded Rahm, who is taking this all calmly and continuing to campaign on more serious issues like education, the deficit, and gang killings, and give the Man on Five his home advantage and let him and the other able candidates run, win or lose, on serious issues and not politically driven residency rules.

As the surprise finale of this episode, I would have Supreme Anne Burke write the Court's opinion that Rahm Emmanuel is back on the ballot seconds before the Evening News.

And as fact follows fiction, as of 5 pm Central Time today (Thursday), the Illinois Supreme Court announced its unanimous ruling that Rahm Emanuel is indeed a Chicago resident and is eligible to run for mayor.

So Rahm is back on the ballot and Saturday Night Live.

Tune in for episode seven.