Reporting Craig Dellimore
UPDATED 01/24/11 5:30 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – The Illinois Appellate Court has tossed mayoral front-runner Rahm Emanuel off the ballot, reversing the decision of a lower court.
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Appellate judges Thomas Hoffman and Shelvin Louise Marie Hall ruled against Emanuel, while Justice Bertina Lampkin voted in favor of keeping President Obama’s former chief of staff on the Feb. 22 ballot.
Emanuel’s lawyers filed an emergency motion Monday asking the Illinois Supreme Court to stay the appellate ruling and to hear an appeal as soon as possible. Lawyers also asked the high court to tell Chicago election officials to keep his name on the ballot if it starts to print them. But after the lower court decision, Langdon Neal, chairman for the Chicago Board of Elections, said the ballots will now be printed without Emanuel’s name.
“We’re going to press with one less candidate for mayor,” he said in a statement. Neal said the elections agency would react accordingly to any supreme court decisions.
Emanuel, for his part, kept campaigning aggressively. He said he believes the people of Chicago “deserve the right” to pick whom they want for mayor, and that he believes the law is on his side.
“I think fundamentally, when a president asks you to serve the country, as his chief of staff, that’s part of serving your country, and I have no doubt that we will in the end prevail at this effort,” Emanuel said. “As my father used to say, nothing’s ever easy in life.”
Emanuel said it’s a hopeful sign that the appellate court’s dissent opinion was “pretty strong.”
Meanwhile, in editorials, Chicago’s two major daily newspapers blasted the 2-1 appellate court decision. The Chicago Tribune urged the Supreme Court to get Emanuel back on the ballot.
One of Emanuel’s opponent said he was surprised by the decision but said it won’t change the focus of his campaign.
“We are going to run on the issues,” Gery Chico said. “We going to talk about better schools, jobs and safe neighborhoods.”
Carol Moseley Braun echoed a similar theme.
“Today’s decision is a major milestone for our campaign,” she said. “But the decision doesn’t make one neighborhood safer, one senior more secure, one child better educated, or give one unemployed person a job.”
“This opens things up,” a third major candidate, Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle, said. “And for those who thought Rahm Emanuel’s election was a foregone conclusion, now the voters are really going to have an opportunity to choose the next mayor of the city of Chicago.”
Opponents have been trying to get Emanuel removed on the grounds that he did not reside in Chicago for a year before the upcoming February election. He moved to Washington, D.C., two years ago to work for President Barack Obama.
But Emanuel’s legal team has argued that he always intended to return to Chicago, noting that he maintained ownership of his Ravenswood home.
The Appellate Court concluded that Emanuel’s claims of intent to return were not enough.
“Based on the foregoing analysis, we conclude that… a candidate must meet not only the Election Code’s voter residency standard, but also must have actually resided within the municipality for one year prior to the election, a qualification that the candidate unquestionably does not satisfy,” the court wrote.
Illinois state law says a candidate for mayor is required to have lived in the municipality where he is running for at least one year prior to the election. But Emanuel’s team has argued that exceptions can be made for national service.
The court agreed that Emanuel’s reason for leaving Chicago constituted “business of the United States,” but argued that this still did not qualify him for the ballot.
“In our view, the exception… applies only to voter residency requirements, not to candidate residency requirements,” the court wrote.
A hearing officer, the full Chicago Board of Elections, and a Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled earlier that Emanuel is eligible to run for mayor.
In today’s ruling, Hoffman wrote: “We … order that the candidate’s name be excluded (or if, necessary, be removed) from the ballot from Chicago’s Feb. 22, 2011.”
In ruling in favor of Emanuel earlier this month, Cook County Circuit Court Associate Judge Mark Ballard agreed that Emanuel kept his residency in Chicago, ruling that “it didn’t matter” that he went to D.C. to work for Obama.
Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez, no fan of Emanuel, called Monday’s ruling a taste of Emanuel’s own medicine.
“Rahm Emanuel’s been one of the most cutthroat political operatives ever seen in the United States of America, and he used the same system for himself. He thought it was good then, and it’s good today,” Gutierrez told CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine.
A recent poll showed Emanuel leading the pack of mayoral candidates with 44 percent support, compared with 21 percent for Moseley Braun, 16 percent for Chico, 7 percent for del Valle, and 9 percent are undecided.
Emanuel has also received the support of heavy-hitters such as former President Bill Clinton.
The Sun-Times Media Wire and Associated Press contributed to this report.