Monday, October 04, 2010

Oh, Rahm, Rahm, can't you do better than this?

It's not good when your "Glad to be home in Chicago" video is filmed in a Washington, D.C. media firm. It just seems a metaphor of phoniness that will haunt his entire campaign.

And then there is this roadblock that may or may not doom his whole campaign - his opponents have a pretty legit-sounding basis for contesting the required 18 month residency in Chicago.
But two of Chicago's top election lawyers say the state's municipal code is crystal clear that a candidate for mayor must reside in the town for a year before the election.

That doesn't mean they must simply own a home in the city that they rent out to someone else. They must have a place they can walk into, keep a toothbrush, hang up their jacket and occasionally sleep, the lawyers say.

Another three election lawyers say Emanuel could be thrown off the ballot on a residency challenge. None says Emanuel will have it easy.
It all depends on how a Chicago judge interprets the fact that Rahm doesn't have a house he can stay in in the city.
But Emanuel's problem as he prepares to run for mayor is that he rented out his house, and the tenant refuses to back out of the lease.

"The guy does not meet the statutory requirements to run for mayor," said attorney Burt Odelson. "He hasn't been back there in 18 months. Residency cases are usually very hard to prove because the candidate gets an apartment or says he's living in his mother's basement. Here the facts are easy to prove. He doesn't dispute he's been in Washington for the past 18 months. This is not a hard case."

Emanuel could argue that he has maintained ownership of the home, voted absentee earlier this year, pays property taxes on his house, lists the address on his driver's license, registers his car there, and always intended to return. Cook County judges give great deference to a candidate's intent.
But Rahm didn't have the intent to live in Chicago until Mayor Daley said he wouldn't run for reelection. If he'd had that intent, he wouldn't have rented out his house and then renewed the lease.
But despite all that testimony, Judge Ray Jagielski ruled that Illinois election law gives great deference to where people say they live, and Luster said he lived with his grandfather in Dixmoor.

The difference between Luster and Emanuel is that Luster could stay at his grandfather's house if he wanted, said attorney Jim Nally. Emanuel's tenant won't let him in.

"I've talked to the guy, and they're pissed," Odelson said of the tenants.

....So while plenty of political people go to work in Washington, D.C., or business people go spend weeks in New York or other places, they have to come home pretty regularly to qualify under that standard, the experts say.

"When he was a congressman, his wife and family lived here, and he would fly home on the weekends," Nally said. "He had a place to sit on the sofa, to keep a toothbrush."

But when Emanuel agreed to become chief of staff, the family moved out to D.C. and the home was rented out to another family that now refuses to break the lease and clear the way for Emanuel to move back in. Emanuel could come back to Chicago to vote, but he could not stop at the house he owns on his way to the polling place, and that does not meet the residency test to run for mayor, Nally said.
It's all up to the Chicago Board of Elections officials. I'm sure those are complete honest folks who don't have any ties to any of the candidates who are swarming around this race. They're from Chicago so they must be honest, right?

UPDATE: John Fund reminds us of how Obama squeezed Chicago election laws in order to win his first election.
Take 1995, when a young candidate for a state senate seat named Barack Obama dispatched a team of lawyers to pore over the nomination petitions of his four opponents -- one of whom was the incumbent state senator. Ronald Davis, an Obama consultant, recalls a conversation he had with his boss at the time: "I said, 'Barack, I'm going to knock them all off.' He said, 'What do you need?'"

Mr. Obama's minions were ruthless in questioning every signature, using voter lists more up-to-date than those used by the other candidates. In the end, Obama lawyers were successful in knocking all four opponents out of the race, allowing the 34-year-old Mr. Obama to run unopposed. Later, he expressed some regret at the bitterness that resulted from his strong-arm tactics. "There's a legitimate argument to be made that you shouldn't create barriers to people getting on the ballot," he told the Chicago Tribune. "To my mind, we were just abiding by the rules that had been set up."

No doubt that is precisely the argument Mr. Emanuel's opponents will employ as they try to use Chicago Rules to bar him from running.
Sweet irony for Rahm Emanuel's run for mayor. Getting a cushy job on Wall Street paying millions for just being a figurehead with political connections is going to start look sweeter and sweeter.