CHICAGO (CBS) — The field in the race for Chicago mayor shrank dramatically Monday, as election officials also began determining whether candidate Rahm Emanuel should be disqualified over residency issues.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine was at Monday’s hearing when the most surprising move was made: The man who triggered the controversy over Emanuel’s residency, Rob Halpin, withdrew.

He declined to comment. But a news release cited difficult financial and legal hurdles. The attorney who filed the paperwork said it was fraudulent petition signatures that Halpin blamed on those who collected them.

Emanuel rented his Ravenswood home to Halpin while serving as President Obama’s top aide in Washington. That triggered 32 challenges to Emanuel’s nominating petitions, and some of the objectors showed up Monday.

“I’ve seen too many of my friends fired for wrong reasons using the residency ordinance,” Thomas Babbington said.

Sylvester “Junebug” Hendricks said if homeless people like him can be bounced from the ballot, so, too, should Emanuel.

But Burt Odelson, the most-experienced and best-financed attorney challenging Emanuel, tried to distance himself from the others, saying, “It’s gonna turn into a little bit of a circus.”

Not so, said a hearing examiner, who set some ground rules.

“If somebody wants to subpoena the president of the United States — Barack Obama, Chicago voter — to come to his home town to sit here in front of me and raise his hand simply to be asked the question from date A to date B was Rahm Emanuel employed by you in the White House in Washington, D.C. — no way am I gonna allow that,” Joseph A. Morris said.

The challengers note that Emanuel did not buy a city sticker for his car. Odelson says there’s no record of stickers being purchased the past few years.

The Emanuel campaign sent CBS 2 a picture of the 08-09 city sticker that supposedly was on Emanuel’s car. Even though the city clerk’s office said there is no record of Emanuel buying the sticker, his attorneys didn’t seem concerned.

“The issue will be resolved,” Kevin Forde said. “There are no surprises in this process. Everything’s been discussed.”

The Emanuel campaign unveiled a letter signed by a variety of community leaders who backed the legitimacy of his candidacy.

The Board of Elections hopes to decide on the Emanuel challenges within two to three weeks, before Christmas. That would leave just under a month for the courts to deal with appeals, before the official ballots are due at the printers in mid-January.

Four others were tossed from the ballot by the city’s election commissioners. That would leave 15 mayoral candidates on the Feb. 22 ballot.

Contributing: CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall

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