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Election Law

Divided Appeals Court Nixes Ex-Obama Aide’s Bid to Run for Chicago Mayor; He’s Not a City Resident

Posted Jan 24, 2011 1:41 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Updated: After two lower-level wins, a former top aide to President Barack Obama was booted from the ballot for the upcoming Chicago mayor's race, as a divided Illinois appellate court panel today held that Rahm Emanuel did not meet a required one-year residency requirement.

This is not expected to be the final answer, however, since Emanuel will likely appeal to the state supreme court, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

And in fact, at a Chicago news conference in the afternoon, Emanuel vowed to fight on, reports the Fix page of the Washington Post.

"I have no doubt at the end we'll prevail in this effort," the candidate said. "We'll now go to the next level to get clarity."

In its 42-page opinion (PDF), a three-judge panel of the Illinois Court of Appeals' First District held that the "reside in" requirement of the city's municipal code, as it applies to candidates for mayor, means what it says: A qualified candidate must literally have lived in the city for the past year, which Emanuel didn't do.

However, a dissenting judge says that an equally straightforward, but different, standard allows Emanuel to stay on the ballot: The customary understanding of what residency means.

"The majority acknowledges that the candidate had established a residency in Chicago long before 2009 where he had both a physical presence here and the intent to remain," writes Justice Bertina Lampkin in her dissent. "The majority failed, however, to move past the issue of establishing residency to the relevant analysis, which turns on whether the candidate’s residency, which he had indisputably held, was abandoned when he worked in Washington, D.C., and leased his Chicago home."

The burden is on the challenger to show that residency has been abandoned, Lampkin writes, and the Cook County Circuit Court did not abuse its discretion by finding that Emanuel continued to show an intent to remain a Chicago resident.

The majority opinion was authored by Justice Thomas Hoffman.

Observers tell the Post they think Emanuel has a good chance of winning in the state's top court--if his case has time to get there before the February primary election.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Ex-Obama Aide Remained a Chicago Resident, Stays on Ballot for Mayor’s Race, Judge Rules"

Updated at 5:54 p.m. to include information from the Washington Post.

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