The Campaign Spot

Ordinary Folks vs. Rahm Emanuel in Chicago

With the holidays approaching, it might seem that the campaign season has slowed. But it is quite a temporary respite.

Chicago has its mayoral-election “primary” on February 22; if no one gets 50 percent (a possibility with the crowded field,) the top two finishers face off in a general election in November April. The key question right now out in the Windy City is, “Does former congressman and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel qualify as a resident of Chicago?” If Emanuel is a resident, he is the front-runner and likely the next mayor. If he isn’t, it’s a wide-open race.

Some of the more recognizable names in the small army of candidates include former U.S. senator Roland Burris; Rep. Danny K. Davis, who represents the state’s 7th district; and Carol Moseley Braun, a former U.S. senator from Illinois who preceded Barack Obama. Of course, if you’re just looking for a candidate who will go to city hall and take out the trash, there’s Fredrick K. White, a truck driver for the city’s sanitation department.*

A recent Tribune poll put Emanuel at 32 percent, undecided at 30 percent, 9 percent each for former Chicago School Board president Gery Chico and Davis, followed by Illinois state senator James Meeks with 7 percent, Moseley Braun with 6 percent, and City Clerk Miguel del Valle with 3 percent.

For the past three days, Emanuel — the man who not long ago had the ear of the president of the United States — attended hearings where ordinary citizens of Chicago — some appearing to be physical residents of the city, but mentally not necessarily residents of this planet — shouted their objections and conspiracy theories in objection to Emanuel’s claim of residency.

This is not to say Emanuel hasn’t exhibited a bit of provocative nerve in his defense:

[Emanuel’s lawyer Kevin] Forde said Emanuel never sold his house here or took steps to establish a permanent residence in Washington. Even so, he should get an exemption for federal service, Forde argued, saying if serving as the president’s chief of staff isn’t serving your country, “I don’t know what is.” . . .

And Emanuel should get no exemption for government service, [attorney for the lead objectors, Burt] Odelson said, because that’s reserved for men and women in the military. “That law was passed in 1943, for obvious reasons,” Odelson argued.

And it sounds like Emanuel’s renter demonstrated a bit of chutzpah himself: “’He suggested to me that Mr. Halpin was looking for $100,000 to leave the house early,’ [Emanuel real estate adviser Paul] Levy said.”

* A dream of sanitary government dies: Steve Stevlic, director of Tea Party Patriots Chicago, writes in to share, “Fred White was knocked off the ballot for failing to reach the minimum of 12,500 signatures on his nominating petitions.”


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