Rahm Emanuel has made it perfectly clear that he wants to be mayor of this city. Now the question is: Does he qualify?
On Wednesday, at least five local residents filed separate objections to the candidacy of Mr. Emanuel with elections officials here, and more objections were expected to trickle in to the city’s Board of Elections in the next few days.
Mr. Emanuel’s critics argue that in moving to Washington to work as chief of staff in the White House, he left Chicago – giving up, they say, a requirement that he have legal residency in this city for one year before mounting a run for mayor. With the city election on Feb. 22, Mr. Emanuel, who returned to Chicago this fall, could not possibly live up to the rule, these critics contend.
But Mr. Emanuel’s campaign, which quickly called a conference call with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, says Mr. Emanuel’s intent was always to return to his home on the North Side of Chicago, and that his intent is what should ultimately define his legal status when these complaints reach elections officials and the courts.
Those filing objections to Mr. Emanuel on Wednesday appeared to be ordinary residents of the city – not other candidates hoping to replace Mayor Richard M. Daley. Paul McKinley, one of the five who filed separate – but identical – objections told the Chicago News Cooperative that his complaint against Mr. Emanuel had stemmed from a meeting of community groups. He said he represents a group called Voices of the Ex-Offender.
In the Emanuel campaign’s call with reporters, Richard Prendergast, a lawyer who described himself as a volunteer with Mr. Emanuel’s campaign, said that the arguments offered in the filings were contrary to state statute and case law. In essence, he said, once a person establishes legal residency somewhere, they must actively abandon that home to be considered no longer a resident.
Even after renting out his home in Chicago, Mr. Prendergast noted, Mr. Emanuel votes in the city, holds a driver’s license here, and has his car registered here. Mr. Prendergast added that Mr. Emanuel consistently said he intended to come back.
One complicating factor: While he was away, Mr. Emanuel rented his home to a businessman who has, in recent days, launched his own unexpected campaign for mayor from Mr. Emanuel’s house. That has raised the prospect of testimony in the coming weeks, as these objections make their way through the system, about who really can say they reside in Mr. Emanuel’s house. Mr. Emanuel, meanwhile, is himself now living in a rental apartment.