Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rahm's real fight

As I write this, the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that they will hear the case that will determine if Rahm Emanuel, the former Illinois Congressman and White House Chief of Staff, can run for Mayor of Chicago. The ruling also has halted all ballots being printed until they make a final determination.

The issue is whether Emanuel has truly established residency to run for the office. There is a law that says a person running for mayor in an Illinois municipality must be resident of that municipality for one year before the election. There is also another law that says a person voting in any Illinois election must establish residency for one year prior to the election, unless said person is called into service for the United States of America.

Emanuel has a home in Chicago, for he was the Congressman for Illinois' 5th District from 2003 to 2009. Ironically, he replaced Rod Blagojevich in Congress. In January of 2009, he became the Chief of Staff for President Obama. He resigned in October of 2010 to run for mayor of his hometown.

Emanuel contends that he meets the residency requirement to be a voter in the upcoming election, thus making him a qualified elector, and therefore a qualified candidate for mayor. He claims that his service as Chief of Staff qualifies for the service to the United States exemption. The Chicago Board of Elections agreed with that premise and qualified him as a candidate.

However, that ruling was challenged to the Illinois Appellate Court and that court overturned their ruling. Unfortunately, I agree with the Appellate Court and I believe the Illinois Supreme Court will also. The problem for Emanuel is that while he may qualify as a voter for the election, the law concerning the qualifications as a candidate are clear and distinct. The fact that he has not been a resident of the state for one year prior to the election, and that absence is documented, Rahm Emanuel is not qualified to run for Mayor of Chicago.

It is a shame because he was the leading candidate going into the February 22nd primary. He campaigned on a positive vision for the city and was not only well-funded, but well-organized also. The main beneficiary of Emanuel leaving the race will more likely be former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun, who has also campaigned as a healer, not a divider.

If the Illinois Supreme Court rules otherwise it will be a surprise, but it is a tough fight that Emanuel has to engage in and in the long run, it will bring some clarity to Chicago politics, which would be a rare, but welcome, moment indeed.