CHICAGO – Illinois’ highest court put Rahm Emanuel back in the race for Chicago mayor Thursday, three days after a lower court threw the former White House chief of staff off the ballot because he had not lived in the city for a full year.
The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Emanuel’s favor, with a majority of justices concluding that the earlier decision was “without any foundation” in the law because it said a candidate must be physically present in Chicago.
Emanuel lived for nearly two years in Washington working for President Barack Obama. He moved back to Chicago in October, after Mayor Richard M. Daley announced he would not seek another term, and soon became the heavy favorite to lead the nation’s third-largest city.
Political observers said the ruling resurrecting Emanuel’s candidacy would probably give him added momentum heading into the last month of the campaign.
Don Rose, a longtime analyst of Chicago politics, said the saga would bring Emanuel “even greater sympathy” and could lift him to victory.
“It’s over,” Rose said. “The only open question is whether he wins it in the first round or whether there’s a runoff.”
But the other contenders in the race did not give any ground.
“Game on,” said Gery Chico, the city’s former school board president and one of Emanuel’s more prominent rivals. He complained that the recent “drama” surrounding Emanuel had “made this election into a circus instead of a serious debate about the future of Chicago.”
The attorney who challenged Emanuel’s residency said he would not appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We don’t feel there’s a federal issue,” Burt Odelson said.
Emanuel never stopped campaigning as the case unfolded. The former White House aide has said he always intended to return to Chicago, and his arguments were accepted by the city election board and a Cook County judge before the appeals court rejected them.