Illinois Politicians Weigh in on Rahm

Pressure is mounting for the Illinois Supreme Court to rule in Rahm Emanuel's favor in his residency case.

Former Republican governor James Thompson and attorneys general Tyrone Fahner and James Ryan penned a letter to the State Journal Register urging the justices of the Supreme Court to restore Emanuel to the ballot in the Chicago Mayors race.

On Monday, the appellate court issued a ruling that struck Rahm Emanuel from the ballot as a result of his temporary move to Washington. This cannot stand and should be reversed by the Supreme Court of Illinois.

Illinois has a proud history of public servants who leave the state to serve the federal government. Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama are the two most obvious examples. But there are many others. For example, Adlai Stevenson II was absent from Illinois for much of 1945-48, while serving as an American delegate to the United Nations in London and New York. Then, in 1948, he was elected governor — despite the Illinois Constitution’s requirement that a candidate for governor must have been “a resident of this State for the three years preceding his election.”

Mr. Emanuel is only the latest in this tradition. He served in Congress for six years. In 2008, President-elect Obama asked his fellow Chicagoan, Mr. Emanuel, to serve as his chief of staff. Mr. Emanuel stated his rationale in accepting as follows: “(W)hen the president asks you to do something, especially in a time of crisis, it’s a one-word answer” — yes. Mr. Emanuel should be lauded for his commitment to our country and service to our president.

For 144 years, Illinois law has been clear: a resident who leaves the state temporarily with an intent to return does not lose his status as a resident. However, the appellate court made a dramatic departure from this principle. It adopted a brand new standard, holding that to be a “resident” for purposes of the municipal code, one must physically live here, and that even absence as a public servant does not preserve one’s residence.

Under this standard, Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama and Adlai Stevenson each ceased being “residents” when they left to serve our country.

Justice Bertina Lampkin, in dissent, called this “a new and undefined standard for determining candidate residency requirements despite the plethora of clear, relevant and well-established precedent that has been used by our circuit courts and election boards for decades.”

We agree. We fear that the appellate court’s decision has the perverse effect of punishing Mr. Emanuel for his service to our country. And we hope that the Illinois Supreme Court will correct this error and find Mr. Emanuel to be a resident for the purpose of his candidacy for mayor of Chicago.

The justices are expected to announce their decision this week and some expect the ruling to come as early as Thursday.

Emanuel's camp said they haven't heard any whispers about which way the decision would fall.

"No smoke signals yet" an Emanuel spokesman said as the campaign waited for the Supreme Court's ruling.

One person who's not waiting is lead opposition attorney Burt Odelson. Odelson says he's outta here and no matter the ruling what he's heading to Florida today for some R 'n' R.

"Why would I stay," he said. "Either way I'm done."

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