Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Emanuel to testify in Chicago residency hearing

CHICAGO – Rahm Emanuel has talked with President Barack Obama and other powerful leaders about some of the most serious questions of the day.

Now, in his bid to be Chicago mayor, he will have to sit in a room in the bowels of a government building and answer questions from lawyers and city residents who don't want him to run.

The stakes couldn't be higher for Emanuel, who quit one of the most powerful jobs in the nation as Obama's chief of staff, for the chance to replace powerful Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

The former Chicago congressman gets to defend himself Tuesday when he is expected to take the stand at what could be a raucous hearing about whether he remained a Chicago resident while he worked in Washington and is eligible to run for mayor.

He faces hours of questioning from lawyers and some of the more than two dozen people without lawyers who challenged his mayoral bid, including one man on Monday who claimed the hearing officer in the case should be arrested for not subpoenaing certain witnesses.

Paul Green, a political scientist at Roosevelt University, said the hearing on Emanuel's residency has the potential for "a lot of lunacy."

"It very easily could become a kangaroo court," Green said.

Emanuel is fighting to stay on the Feb. 22 ballot in a crowded race to replace Daley, who isn't seeking a seventh term.

Opponents argue Emanuel isn't eligible to be mayor because he lived in Washington for nearly two years before coming back to Chicago to run for mayor in October.

He's expected to be the first person to testify when the hearing officer for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners begins listening to evidence, and those who object to his name being on the ballot will get to question him personally.

They also will get to question the couple who began renting Emanuel's Chicago home when he moved to Washington.

It was obvious during a set-up hearing Monday that not everybody is well-versed on the finer points of the law — starting with one objector who couldn't understand why he wouldn't be allowed to subpoena journalists who have covered the issue to testify about what they know.

Emanuel and his lawyers claim he didn't forfeit his residency when he left Chicago. Among other things, the lawyers contend the Emanuel family continued to keep important personal items at their home, including his wife's wedding dress, the clothes his children wore home from the hospital after they were born and their school report cards. They have stressed he always intended to return.

"I own a home here in the city of Chicago," Emanuel told reporters during a campaign stop. "My car is licensed here in the city of Chicago. I pay property taxes here in the city of Chicago. I vote in the city of Chicago."

But attorney Burt Odelson said Emanuel did take some steps to give up his residency. For example, Odelson said Emanuel initially declared himself on tax forms to be a part-time resident of Chicago, and only changed that wording when people filed objections to his mayoral bid.


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