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Emanuel Testifies In Residency Hearing

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Rahm Emanuel

Mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel answers questions about his residency. (Credit: CBS)

Lisa Fielding Lisa Fielding
Lisa Fielding is a news anchor and reporter for Newsradio 780. She...
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UPDATED 12/14/10 10:09 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Who knew the hottest ticket in town was to a dramatic show at the Chicago Board of Elections? The residency hearing for Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel lasted about 11 hours Tuesday.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine covered the hearing, where Emanuel insisted, “a house is not a home.”

A hearing was held Tuesday about challenges to Emanuel’s nominating petitions, stemming from claims that he does not meet the residency requirements to run for mayor.

Emanuel arrived at the George W. Dunne Cook County Office Building Tuesday morning. He was prepared for at least a day – maybe more – from a series of attorneys and challengers to his right to run for mayor.

Objectors say Emanuel forfeited his standing to run for mayor by going to Washington, D.C., to serve as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff. State law requires any candidate for mayor to live in the municipality for a year before the election in which he is running, but there are exceptions made for national service.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Craig Dellimore Reports

Emanuel had a house in Washington, he testified. But home was always Chicago, which was why he claimed the residency controversy took him by surprise.

The candidate with the legendary temper remained calm, never losing his cool or even raising his voice, despite questions, which strayed pretty far from the residency issue.

Like one from Jeffrey Joseph Black, who asked, “Were you in Waco, Texas three days prior to or three days after April 19, 1993?”

Which led to an objection that was sustained.

Other questions were closer to the issue, dealing with him renting out his Chicago home, but still registering to vote from that address.

“As did the Halpins, as did Mr. Emanuel, as did all these other people, it’s a flop house. He lives there, you still there, sounds like a flop house,” said attorney Andrew Finko.

Many of the questions from the long line of challengers, some represented by lawyers, others representing themselves, were quickly overruled.

“Who wouldn’t be confused by all the times you object and they object, and you object on behalf of him as if he didn’t have enough lawyers here to object for him,” one woman said.

Which is not to say the questioners didn’t elicit some important distinctions.

Like Alfredo Castillo, asking if Emanuel thought he qualified for the military exception to residency requirements.

“The claim isn’t one based on military service. The claim is one on national service, at the request of the President of the United States,” said Emanuel.

There was even a bit of humor during the proceedings – a bulky microphone during Emanuel’s testimony about where he went to elementary school prompted Chicago Board of Elections hearing officer Joseph Morris to say, “Having a little trouble getting out of fourth grade, huh?”

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Craig Dellimore Reports

The Ravenswood neighborhood home that Emanuel had rented out when he was in Washington was the most controversial topic.

Emanuel repeatedly claimed he simply rented a Washington house while still considering Chicago home.

Election law attorney Burton Odelson, who is leading the charge against Emanuel’s residency, used an overhead projector to show photographs of the interior and exterior of the home on North Hermitage Avenue.

“Of course, that was the kitchen?” he asked as a picture of the kitchen at the house was displayed.

“Very good, Mr. Odeslon, yes,” Emanuel quipped. “U.S. history for $200?”

But the questioning soon turned serious when it came to Emanuel’s 2009 tax return, on which he said he was only a part-time resident of Illinois, while his wife and children were in Washington before they joined him back at a rented home beginning in June, when the Chicago school year ended.

“This document states that you were a part-time resident of Illinois in 2009. This is basically what the document says,” Odelson said.

“Correct, that is what this document says,” Emanuel replied.

“Why did you amend the return?” Odelson asked.

“Because the first one was inaccurate,” Emanuel said. “It was not filled out correctly, and so we amended it. We made a correction having found the mistake.”

Emanuel checked the box for part-time resident on the return, but later amended it, removing the check mark after he returned to run for mayor.

His challengers argue Emanuel realized after deciding to run for mayor that admitting to be a part-time resident might disqualify him.

Emanuel counters that prized possessions, including his wife’s wedding dress and children’s baby pictures he left here, proves he always intended to come back; and should not be disqualified for answering a president’s call to serve.

The questions about where he lived continued right up to the end of the 11-hour day.

When asked where he intends to go home to after leaving Tuesday’s hearing, Emanuel said, “Well, first, I’m going to stop at Waveland Bowl to meet with voters.”

He was abruptly cut off and directed to answer the question and not “make campaign statements.”

“Oh, really? After 11 hours, I thought I’d slip one in,” joked Emanuel.

Speaking to CBS 2 after Tuesday’s hearing, Emanuel said, “My takeaway is the city of Chicago, its future, is worth fighting for.”

Testimony will continue Wednesday. No decision is expected for about a week.

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