Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff for President-elect Barack Obama, addresses a gathering of corporate CEOs at an economic conference sponsored by The Wall Street Journal, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008. Emanuel was a senior advisor to President Bill Clinton and has represented the Fifth Congressional District of Illinois in the House of Representatives since 2002. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (Associated Press)

Rahm Emanuel, victim of Chicago-style politics, thrown off mayoral ballot

Whoops! An Illinois court says the former White House chief of staff gave up his city residency

Alex Pareene
January 24, 2011 11:45PM (UTC)

Rahm Emanuel has been kicked off the ballot for mayor of Chicago. Between that and the Bears' humiliating loss yesterday, this has probably been his worst 24-hour period in years. Even after the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners and a Cook County judge said Emanuel met the residency requirements, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled 2-1 today that Emanuel gave up his residency when he took the White House chief of staff job and rented out his apartment to that guy who refused to give it back to him.

With the election on Feb. 22, Emanuel is now excluded from the ballot unless his appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court is successful. (Which actually seems unlikely.)


I'm no huge fan of Emanuel, who pioneered cashing in on years of "public service" in a Democratic administration with a shameless stopover to become a millionaire in the finance industry, and who then helped make a complete mess of the Obama administration's first two years, but this is still silly. The man has spent most of his life in Chicago, and taking a job in D.C. for a couple of years shouldn't disqualify him from running for mayor any more than being from Boston makes Mike Bloomberg unqualified to lead New York. If the good people of Chicago are dumb enough to want to make Emanuel their leader, they should have that right.

What is especially entertaining about this whole mess is that Rahm Emanuel himself is now the victim of genuine "Chicago-style politics," just as it exists in the fevered imaginations of conservative bloggers. Getting your opponents thrown off the ballot is a time-honored Chicago tradition, and if you can't out-fundraise Emanuel (and no one can), your best hope is to disqualify him. The attorney waging war on Emanuel, Burt Odelson, "represents" two voters, but no one is positive who actually set him loose on Emanuel. (Though there are theories.)

If the Supreme Court fails him, Emanuel's best hope is a write-in campaign. He's currently polling well above his rivals, and he's got both the money and the insane driving relentless will to crush all who stand in his way, so I wouldn't count him out yet.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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