CHICAGO – Rahm Emanuel is a resident of Chicago and eligible to run for mayor, city elections officials ruled Thursday, removing the primary obstacle to the former White House chief of staff’s bid to lead the nation’s third-largest city.
The decision of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners was followed a few hours later by the surprise withdrawal from the race of state Sen. James Meeks, who said the remaining African-American candidates must rally a “divided and splintered” black community in Chicago to beat “the front-running, status quo candidates” a list presumably topped by Emanuel.
Meeks’ decision to exit and urge the city’s large African-American community to rally around a unity candidate tightens a still-large field of people seeking to replace retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley.
It could also provide a boost to the chances of the two other leading black candidates, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, both of whom trail the well-known adviser to President Barack Obama in polls.
The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners unanimously rejected arguments Emanuel forfeited his city residency when he went to work for Obama in Washington. While a planned appeal could ultimately place the question of whether Emanuel’s name appears on the Feb. 22 ballot before the Illinois Supreme Court, Emanuel said the ruling allowed him to “turn the page” and focus on issues important to voters.
The challenge to Emanuel’s residency had dogged his campaign for two months. More than two dozen people had challenged his right to run, contending he didn’t meet a requirement that he be a resident of Chicago for a year before the election.