The long-awaited ballot challenges to Rahm Emanuel's residency began materializing Friday. But, this being Chicago, it should come as no surprise that even the challenges were somewhat shrouded in mystery.
Veteran election lawyer Burton Odelson filed petitions on behalf of two citizens, Walter P. Maksym, of the 2000 block of N. Lincoln Avenue, and Thomas McMahon, who resides in the 600 block of East 111th street. Neither was present when the petitions were filed, and Maksym's two listed phone numbers are now disconnected. McMahon recently was the subject of news stories on the eve of his retirement from the Chicago Police Department, after he gave chase to murder suspects who fired at him near 111th and King Drive. The retiring captain was not wounded in the exchange, but was hailed as a hero.
The Emanuel campaign immediately suggested the citizen challengers were in fact, stalking horses for one of the other candidates in the race. "The politicians behind this challenge have an obligation to come out of the shadows," Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky declared, defending Emanuel's residency as legitimate and legal. "He owns a home here, he pays property taxes here, votes here. His car is registered here. This is his home. Chicago is home."
Odelson insisted he represented no candidate in filing the objections. "These two gentlemen came to me and I took them out of many who have sent emails to my website, asking that they be the objector in this case. I took these two gentlemen because I think they signify the heart of Chicago."
Late Friday, Emanuel supports sent messages to reporters, noting that Maksym, an attorney, had once represented alleged killer Drew Peterson, as well as a Catholic Priest accused of molesting numerous children, and that he voted Republican in the last election.
Odelson said the law was crystal clear, and that Emanuel did not meet the litmus test of legal residency.
"The law says you have to have a physical presence, not just intent," the attorney said. "It's where your wife lives, it's where your children live."
Emanuel vacated his home in the 42 hundred block of North Hermitage, when he left Chicago to become Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama. He leased the home to Robert Halpin and his family in the fall of 2009. After publicity about his occupancy of Emanuel's home, Halpin filed papers as a candidate for mayor.
Odelson's petition alleges that since Emanuel had not lived in the city for the last year, and had not maintained a residence in the city, he fell short of the legal requirements for residency.
"He would have had to have had a residence here since February 22nd, 2010," Odelson said. In his petitions, he refers to Emanuel as "a purported candidate for Mayor of Chicago."