Appellate court rules Emanuel off the ballot

Candidate appeals to Supremes

January 24, 2011

by City Room

(Getty/Scott Olsen)
Rahm Emanuel

Updated: 6:37pm. The Illinois Appellate Court issued a written ruling Monday stating that Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel does not meet the qualifications to be on the February municipal ballot.  Emanuel said he will appeal the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court.

The three-judge panel decided 2-1 that Emanuel did not meet the requirements for running for mayor.

Attorney Burt Odelson has argued Emanuel doesn't qualify to be on the ballot because he claims the former White House chief of staff doesn't meet a requirement that the mayor of Chicago live in the city for one year before taking the office. "You can't mentally just have a residence," Odelson said last week after arguing before the appeals court. "You have to have a residence. You have to go somewhere."

Emanuel's attorneys have argued their client never abandoned his North Side home when he went to work in Washington, D.C. as President Obama's chief of staff.

Meeting with reporters shortly after the decision came down, Emanuel said his laywers are going to ask for a stay to keep his name on the ballot. 

"I have no doubt that we will in the end prevail in this effort," Emanuel said, noting a forceful dissent to the Appellate Court decision. "As my father used to say, nothing's ever easy in life. So nothing's ever easy. This is just one turn in the road."

Sure enough, by Monday evening, Emanuel's team filed its initial paperwork with the state Supreme Court.

Emanuel pointed out to reporters the searing dissent written by Appellate Judge Bertina Lampkin. The court's ruling, Lampkin wrote, was based "on the whims of two judges," using a standard for residency that is "a figment of the majority's imagination."

"The majority's decision disenfranchises not just [Emanuel], but  every voter in Chicago who would consider voting for him," Lampkin wrote.

Monday's ruling overturns previous decisions by a circuit court judge and the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. A statement from the board, which prints the ballots, said, "We're going to press with one less candidate for mayor."

Meanwhile, Emanuel’s opponents hastily called press conferences Monday afternoon to respond to the court’s decision. Gery Chico, the former head of Chicago’s community college system and the No. 2 fundraiser in the race next to Emanuel, told reporters he was surprised by the news. But Chico declined to attack Emanuel, and said the ruling will not chance his campaign strategy.

"We're gonna run our campaign the way we did yesterday, we're gonna run it the same way tomorrow,” Chico said. “We're gonna run it on the issues, we're gonna talk about better schools, jobs and safer neighborhoods."

Don Rose is a Chicago political analyst. He calls it a "totally stunning legal opinion" and says there are numerous possibilities to what happens next.

The Illinois Supreme Court may take the appeal this week. If the appellate court's decision is upheld, Emanuel could still run a write-in campaign.

But University of Illinois at Chicago Professor Dick Simpson says even if Emanuel could win an extremely difficult write-in campaign, his candidacy would still be open to legal challenges.

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