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Another Residency Challenge For Emanuel

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Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (R) campaigns for Chicago Mayor (John Gress/Getty Images)

Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (R) campaigns for Chicago Mayor (John Gress/Getty Images)

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UPDATED 11/27/10 9:18 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) - Mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel is being hit with yet another residency challenge.

Election Law Specialist Burton Odelson filed paperwork with the Illinois State Board of Elections Friday. The legality of Emanuel’s candidacy is being challenged by more than a dozen people.

Odelson is one of several opponents who believe Emanuel does not meet the legal requirement that candidates must live in the city for a year before Election Day.

Odelson, deals with those out of state in service to our country.

“Service to the United States is when you’re in the military. That’s when you’re serving the United States. It’s not when you’re in service to the President of the United States,” Odelson said.

Odelson’s argument was countered by Jan Schakowsky, Emanuel’s former House colleague during a conference call set up by the campaign.

“The chief of staff for the President, if that isn’t public service and a reason to leave the city to serve your country, I don’t know what is,” Schakowsky said.

With Emanuel on the West Coast, courtside for the Bull-Lakers game, celebrating the holiday with his family, the campaign offered two conference calls in three days, calling the residency issue one of intent.

“The law says you have to have a physical presence not just intent,” according to Odelson. “I’ve heard all these notions about intent, intent, its the physical presence its where your wife lives, where your children live, where they go to school. Intent is minor.”

While Odelson helped state Sen. Rev. James Meeks (D-Chicago) file his nominating petitions, Meeks says he has nothing to do with the challenge. Most appear linked to lesser known candidate William “Dock” Walls, who’s been just down the hall, conferring with those filing the objections, even providing the notary to sign them all.

Emanuel spent his time in Washington, D.C., for nearly two years while working as chief of staff to President Barack Obama and returned to Chicago last month to run for mayor.

Ironically, Odelson had argued that Paul Vallas should be allowed to come back to run for Governor in 2006, when he was working out of state.

“Odelson is more than happy to argue either side or all sides of this issue,” Shakowsky pointed out.

A fellow candidate, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, tells WBBM Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore that if others had not challenged Emanuel’s residency, she might have done so herself.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports

“No, I might. As it turns out, I don’t have to, because there are others; I’d be, like, sixth in line, so it’s like, OK, there are others that are doing this, but I think that the residency issue is a serious one, and one that shouldn’t just be a matter of a challenge from outside,” Braun said.

Braun was Dellimore’s guest on WBBM 780’s “At Issue” program, which will air Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Also, some of the lesser-known candidates such as Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins believe getting Emanuel off the ballot means visibility.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts Reports

“According to what I see in my reading of the law, he’s not a resident of Chicago,” Van Pelt-Watkins said.

Candidate, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) agrees, and says the issue is one of trust for voters.

“Being first-class means that the people feel that legal decisions and determinations are on the up-and-up,” Davis said.

And candidate Gery Chico says he will not challenge anyone. He says it’s up to the candidates to make their cases as effectively as possible to the voters.

Six others have already challenged Emanuel’s residency. One was Paul McKinley, who said he is a member of a grassroots organization called “Voice of the Ex-Offender.”

“We’re saying that we’re not going sit back and allow Rahm Emanuel to break the law and no one ask him these questions,” McKinley said this week. “And he has not as yet to really come out and meet the community and face us concerning these questions.”

But attorney Rich Prendergast, former president of the Chicago Bar Association, said Wednesday that Emanuel never lost his residency in Chicago because he never sold his home and always planned to move back to the city after working at the White House.

“There’s no doubt we’re on firm ground,” Prendergast said. “Rahm never abandoned Chicago. He is not disqualified. Illinois law says once you establish legal residence you have to abandon it. Courts look to intent of the candidate and Rahm never intended to make Washington a permanent home, he was only there on temporary assignment to the White House. His intent was always to move back to Chicago. He never gave up his residence.”

But McKinley said that, although Emanuel continued to own a home in Chicago while working at the White House, he did not live there and rented it out to a tenant who still lives there and has refused to let Emanuel break the lease so he can move back.

The tenant, Rob Halpin, has himself submitted petitions to run for mayor.

Prendergast noted that Rahm continued to vote in Chicago after he went to work at the White House and has kept an Illinois drivers license.

WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts, and CBS 2’s Jay Levine contributed to this report.

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