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Turmoil in Chicago: Rahm Emanuel back on ballot as top court takes case

Illinois Supreme Court stays the ruling dropping Rahm Emanuel from the Chicago ballot and agrees to hear his appeal on residency. With the mayoral election in turmoil, anger is voiced at the appellate court ruling.

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Both major Chicago newspapers ran scathing editorials lambasting the decision, with the Tribune calling the court's reasoning "audaciously twisted" and the Sun-Times declaring that "if this ruling stands, two appellate court justices, employing a rather narrow reading of state law, will have decided that you, the voters, cannot choose Emanuel to be your next mayor – tough luck, folks."

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And that ruling – which decided to view the requirement that a mayoral candidate reside in Chicago for the year prior to the election through their narrower lens rather than apply the broader legal definition of residency commonly used – has fueled at least a few conspiracy theories.

The two judges responsible for the majority opinion both owe their jobs to the backing of a powerful Chicago alderman, Edward Burke, who has openly endorsed Gery Chico, another mayoral candidate, a Tribune article notes. Mr. Burke's wife, Anne Burke, also happens to be a justice on the state Supreme Court that will now consider the appeal.

Judge's dissent was scathing

Perhaps no one has been more scathing in their criticism than Bertina Lampkin, the appellate judge who wrote the dissent in Monday's ruling. "The majority’s application of a new standard in the instant case shows a careless disregard for the law shortly before an election for the office of mayor in a major city," Judge Lampkin wrote. "An opinion of such wide-ranging import and not based on established law but, rather, on the whims of two judges, should not be allowed to stand."

In his appeal, Emanuel and his lawyers cite this dissent, along with other reasons they believe the ruling should be overturned. It is "squarely inconsistent" with other high court decision regarding residency, they note.

Still, there is no guarantee that the state Supreme Court will overturn the current ruling. While no one disputes the facts – that Emanuel rented out his Chicago home and "resided" primarily in Washington for the 18 months when he worked for Obama – the court can now debate the intent, both of Emanuel and of the statute requiring residency as a prerequisite to running for mayor.

Not surprisingly, Emanuel's opponents greeted the news of the ruling more favorably. "There is no way I would second-guess the court of appeals of this state," Ms. Braun declared at a news conference. And Miguel del Valle, another candidate, sees the decision as a plus for Chicago voters. "Now the voters are going to have an opportunity to select the mayor of the City of Chicago instead of millionaires and lobbyists – and I think that’s good for the neighborhoods of the city of Chicago,” he said. Mr. Chico, for his part, appeared to be trying to stay out of the fray, saying his campaign would continue with its same strategy.

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