Chicago Politics Goes by the Rules

You betcha. Chicago politicians have to go by the rules. The President’s right-hand man, Rahm Emanuel, has now been declared not legal to run for Mayor of Chicago. Why? Because the rules say that he had to have been a resident of Chicago for the previous year, but President Obama asked Rahm — who has lived here his whole life —  to come to DC to take care of the White House — and Rahm did so and now it’s been decided that though he paid taxes (which isn’t a small deal in the City) and though he owned a residence here, he wasn’t legally a resident. That’s the rule. And, of course, those politicians all go by the rules.

It’s sure fishy to me — and Kris and I don’t live in Cook County or Chicago so we don’t vote there — that this happened on the day they were printing the ballots.

A state appellate court has ruled that Rahm Emanuel should not appear on the mayoral ballot because he does not meet the residency standard. Attorneys for Emanuel late today asked the Illinois Supreme Court to prevent Chicago elections officials from printing ballots for the Feb. 22 election without his name.

Here’s more…

Emanuel held a news conference before the legal filings to try to reassure voters his campaign to succeed retiring Mayor Richard Daley continues.

“I have no doubt at the end we’ll prevail in this effort,” Emanuel said at a news conference. “We’ll now go to the next level to get clarity.”

“I still own a home here, (I) look forward to moving into it one day, vote from here, pay property taxes here. I do believe the people of the city of Chicago deserve a right to make a decision about who they want to be their next mayor,” Emanuel said.

In a 2-1 ruling, the appellate panel said Emanuel does not meet the residency requirement of having lived in Chicago for a year prior to the election. The judges reversed a decision by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, which had unanimously agreed that Emanuel was eligible to run for mayor.

“We conclude that the candidate neither meets the Municipal Code’s requirement that he have ‘resided in’ Chicago for the year preceding the election in which he seeks to participate nor falls within any exception to the requirement,” the majority judges wrote. “Accordingly, we disagree with the Board’s conclusion that he is eligible to run for the office of Mayor of the City of Chicago. We reverse the circuit court’s judgment confirming the Board’s decision, set aside the Board’s decision and … order that the candidate’s name be excluded (or, if necessary, removed) from the ballot.”
About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Allan R. Bevere

    Scot, I am curious as to why you think there is more here than meets the eye. I was under the impression (mistaken perhaps)that Rahm was a rather favorite son of Chicago. Could it be that the decision on the same day as ballot printing was a coincidence, or was there an unusually long delay in the court’s decision?

  • Scot McKnight

    Allan, I’ve got no evidence and there’s no scuttlebutt about this, but this is Chicago and there’s so much shenaniganning here … that’s all.

  • Rog

    I agree with Scot. Sounds like Chicago’s birther equivalents are taking an extremely literal and unreasonable view of the law. The birthers must have renewed hope for such a sympathetic court for 2012?

  • billyv

    I can’t see “birthers” holding any sway in a Chicago election, Rog. More likely another Dem has spread more money around.

  • Randi Buslik

    That is ridiculous. I teach this stuff in the city of Chicago. I just love how the rules get bent depending on who is asking. I can’t believe there isn’t enough money and power to get him on that ballot. He is the only man/woman for the job. What will become of Chicago without him? This is just stupid already. Let the man run and if he wins then that is what the people of Chicago want.

  • Robin

    I’m surprised by the defense of Rahm. Rahm was not a resident for the previous 2 years. Yes he owned a house, which he rented out, and yest he paid taxes, but you know what that makes him – a landlord, and an absentee one at that.

    It was pointed out yesterday that there were multiple things he could have done to maintain his residency…instead of leasing his entire house, he could have kept a room or a guest house unleased to maintain residency, he could have let his wife and kids remain in Chicago, he could have kept an apartment that he visited on the weekends, any of these things would have preserved his residency status, and he didn’t do any of them.

    He was an absentee landlord, period. Maybe you think the law is stupid, and we should allow absentee landlords who haven’t lived in cities for 2 years to run for mayor, there is certainly precedent for that. Hillary Clinton moved to New York in January of 2000 and was elected to the Senate that same year. Just this past year Dan Coats won the Senate Race in Indiana despite not having lived there in about a decade. The fact remains though, that Illinois has this law, obsolete thought it may be, and people just cannot believe the courts had the gall to enforce it against a member of the politically anointed class.

  • Robin

    There is irony in Rahm’s disqualification as well. President Obama was first elected to the Illinoise Senate only because he used technicalities, like the one Rahm is facing, to get all of his opponents thrown off the ballot. He originally was scheduled to have four opponents in the 1996 election, but he managed to get all 4 opponents disqualified by raising objections to the petition signatures.

    Here is a summary of the objections “Grounds for dismissal of signatures included signatures printed but not signed, valid but collected by someone underage, and valid for the 1995 polling sheets but not the more recent 1996 ones.”

    The fact that such a technicality would now ensnare Rahm seems like poetic justice.

  • Richard

    @6 I would agree with Robin regarding the letter of the law but I would advocate that the spirit of the law re: residence is to prevent outsiders from holding office and Rahm (like him or not) is hardly an outsider to Chicago politics.

    I think the decision could go either way. Shame on Rahm for not establishing residency earlier than he did.

  • Single in the Suburbs

    There is nothing fishy going on here. Rahm simply hasn’t lived here physically in the last year. He shouldn’t run for mayor. He’s been busy and working hard in our country’s capitol. He does not have a current pulse of what is happening in Chicago. (BTW, I am an independent, meaning I vote for both red and blue… PURPLE POLITICS!)

  • Jpyce

    I don’t understand how we can make such a fuss over this man running for mayor. For God’s sake, he has represented a Chicago district for years,live in the city his whole life and then served the president of the United States. Laws are made to be broken. Check out the prisons. This situation is another example of how the politicians play their games and the judicial system waste the tax payers money.

    Is this really the land of the free? When a man can spend years working as a public servant, be the people’s choice for mayor and a law that was drawn up and passed by God knows who or why brings his career to a halt. The outcome for a city of millions is determined by three individuals interperting laws unworthy of the paper they are writing on. What happen to Democracy/Let the People Decide?

  • megan

    When I first heard about the ruling, I was inclined to say, “Good for them, not letting him sneak in.” But the more I look at the issues involved, the more I find myself somewhat unexpectedly being convinced otherwise.

    I am a city of Chicago resident and registered voter, and I haven’t decided who I’ll vote for. But at this point, I do believe I should at least have the option of voting for Rahm.

  • Single in the Suburbs

    Maybe if we change the rules for Rahm, the Feds will change the law so that Ahhh-nold of Cali-for-nia can run for president. Is that a fair compromise?

  • DRT

    Rahm should know how to play the game at this point. Shame on him.

  • Theo

    Wasn’t Bush a resident of Texas while he was Pres? I think Clinton remained a resident of Arkansas during his time in office.

  • Jorge L

    Rahm Emmanuel has not “lived here nearly his whole life” if by “here” you mean (as was clearly implied, the City of Chicago.

    He’s a carpetbagger from the suburbs. He’s lived in the city a few years, when very young, perhaps a bit in between.

  • Jorge L

    No 8: “Rahm (like him or not) is hardly an outsider to Chicago politics”

    Well, he used his North Shore suburban network to raise money for Richie Daley–he was an outsider.

    He muscled his way into a city Congressional district by lies and dirty tricks about his opponent.

    He represented Dan Rostekowski’s district for 6 years? 4+ years, after making mega-millions on Wall Street as a cushy reward for being Clinton’s enforcer. He was in Washington during the 90s, in New York in the early 2000s,
    lived in Chicago for the first time since he was a kid from what, 2004–2008?

    Yeah, he’s from Chicago: moneybags boy for the Machine.

    Does he know anyone, really know anyone in the fifth congressional district? I doubt it. His best buds are all in Hollywood or Wall Street or Willmette or, perhaps Libertyville??