The loud burst of microphone feedback heard when Rahm Emanuel walked in the room to testify on challenges to his residency claims was just the beginning of what would turn out to be an exhausting and quirky lesson in civics.
"I haven't heard that since my Bar Mitzvah," he said when he walked in via a side door at the Chicago Board of Elections hearing room Tuesday morning.
Funny thing is, his testimony reached further back than even his Bar Mitzvah as Emanuel took listeners on a tour of his childhood beginning in the fourth grade.
His Bar Mitzvah quip wouldn’t be his last witty remark during a marathon testimony session that lasted until nearly 9 p.m. and focused on everything from Emanuel’s home layout to his purchase of city stickers to his income tax returns and beyond.
Emanuel got of a number of one-liners as he faced down residency questions from more than 20 objectors.
The first objector to speak, election lawyer Burt Odelson, took Emanuel through pictorial tour of his North Side home and asked him to narrate the slideshow, which was projected on a screen in the room.
“I’ll take U.S. History for $200,” Emanuel said when asked to identify a room in his house.
Odelson raised a number of evidence-based objections to Emanuel’s residency, but faced an uphill battle in the raucous hearing room.
After questioning Emanuel about the layout of his home, Odelson moved on to questions about Chicago city stickers. Odelson says Emanuel didn’t purchase a Chicago City Sticker for his vehicle in 2008, 2009 or 2010. In the past candidates have been thrown off the ballot for owing the city money.
"We always bought our sticker" Emanuel replied, drawing chuckles from the crowd when he described his Mercury Marina as "a hybrid."
As for income taxes returns that were filed and then amended by Emanuel in 2009, his attorneys objected to questions about those them, saying he followed Washington D.C. rules requiring individuals who earn income while working in D.C. to file there.
Emanuel said he originally checked a non-resident box by mistake.
“[It was] prepared by my accountant and I gave it cursory view," Emanuel said before saying he had it amended. "First one is inaccurate" so he amended income taxes on Nov 24.
"I'm not a CPA or accountant," he said.
Once Odelson was finished, the real circus began.
A woman stood up and yelled about the make up of the hearings.
"Your hearings are out of order the way state law reads" she's ushered out.”
Then objector lawyer Andrew Finko took the stand and asked: "How involved are you in your campaign?" which drew loud laughter from the crowd.
Finko then accused Emanuel of keeping his Chicago address as a “flop house.”
After Finko spoke, a number of activists took to the microphone.
Citizen objector Paul McKinley, who came to the stand in a t-shirt asked bluntly: "Why, if you are a millionaire. With all that money, why did you rent your house?"
"It was recommended for safety and security of the house," Emanuel replied.
McKinley repeatedly asked questions that had already been asked earlier in the day, causing Hearing officer Joseph Morris to nearly beg him for a new line of questioning.
Ultimately, McKinley asked a new question of Emanuel:
"Have you ever been a member of the Community Party?" he said.
The question drew laughter and then was withdrawn.
A woman by the name of Queen Sister Deloney seemed to make statements more often than she posed a question. One tirade ultimately ended with a question as to how, if it's been a life-long dream to be a mayor of Chicago, could he not have had the forethought to make sure he had all his ducks in a row and maintain residency in the city.
Morris objected and offered Deloney what would be one of several lessons in law and procedure he'd give throughout the afternoon and evening.
"The witness thinks -- it's precisely what he did, and the whole point of this exercise is to give an opportunity to all you objectors, by evidence, that his thinking that his doing the right thing was wrong," said Morris.
Emanuel smiled when a woman named Sikia Muhammad stated, "You're used to running the show. You don't like being here with us."
But perhaps the most contentious moments of the afternoon came during questioning from a man named Paul Black, who at one point tried to allege a vast conspiracy between Emanuel, Mayor Richard Daley and election officials and in another accused Morris of being part of a criminal organization.
"Mr. Black, your statements to me about peril, moral or legal peril, have no effect upon me. I am not afraid of you. I am not afraid of those claims or allegations. They will not sway the decisions I make in this case, one way or another, so don't fear that they will. Don't hope that they will," scolded Morris.
After objecting to several statements and questions posed by Black, Morris ultimately said aloud: "I don't know if I have contempt powers, but I'm getting close to wanting to find out."
Emanuel's wife, Amy Rule, won't have to testify. Hearing officer Joseph A. Morris said she wouldn't need to take the stand. The couple contends that they always remained tied to Chicago during stints in Washington and frequently traveled home. The also left a number of personal possessions in the house.
Objectors say he forfeited his residency when he moved to Washington D.C.
The hearing will resume Wednesday at 1 p.m.