CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayoral candidates talked about a variety of issues Monday, but the race was overshadowed by this one: whether Rahm Emanuel will be allowed to run at all.

The question, which is expected to be answered this week, is clearly on the minds of mayoral hopefuls, though you have to coax them into talking about it, CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports.

Congressmen Danny Davis was campaigning, urging senior citizens to use their time and experience to mentor young people. But he admitted the residency decision looms in the background.

At issue is whether the time Emanuel served as President Obama’s chief of staff, living in Washington, meant he was no longer a Chicago resident.

A state election law says “no elector or spouse shall be deemed to have lost his or her residence … by reason of his or her absence on business of the United States, or of this State.”

Challengers argue that section deals with the right to vote, not to run for office. They say the state municipal code offers only one valid excuse for not living here: active-duty military service.

Davis declined to offer his own opinion.

“I saw we are a nation of laws, and we have a court system that interprets the law when there are shades of gray,” he said.

Emanuel, who was targeting city health care costs on Monday, said his attorneys made a clear case that he always intended to return to Chicago after he rented his Ravenswood home.

“We had stuff in the basement of our home,” Emanuel said. “We had emails indicating that we were returning, and I believe the people of the city of Chicago deserve the right to make the choice of who they want to vote for mayor.” 

Following a series of hearings last week, it’s now in the hands of the Board of Elections hearing officer who got all the lawyers to file final written arguments Monday. He expects to hand down his decision late Tuesday or on Wednesday.

The three-member board has scheduled a hearing for 9 a.m. Thursday.

Losers in the case are expected to appeal in the courts, with a decision there expected before the Feb. 22 election.

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