Is Rahm Emanuel the right choice for Chicago?


CHICAGO - In the end a decision by the Illinois Supreme Court to keep Rahm Emanuel on or off the mayoral ballot for this city's Feb. 22 election, will be a "political decision," say longtime independent activists.

In a whirlwind of events here this week, the state's Supreme Court granted a reprieve to Emanuel's attorneys Tuesday, to keep his name on the mayoral ballot for now.

Meanwhile the seven-member state Supreme Court will decide whether his name should stay there permanently. A decision could come fairly quickly, which will be the final word, experts note.

On Monday, the Appellate Court issued a stunning ruling booting Emanuel off the ballot.

However the state's high court chose to intervene in a case that has challenged Emanuel's residency requirement. Emanuel decided to run for mayor after leaving the Obama administration in October where he served as the president's chief of staff.

He was immediately challenged on whether he met the one-year city residency requirement to run for mayor and he eventually won at both the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners' office and at the Cook County Circuit Court.

Then Emanuel suffered a major setback with the Appellate Court's ruling earlier this week, which stated he did not meet the requirement.

"It was always going to end up in the Supreme Court," said Don Rose, an independent political consultant and longtime Chicago activist. "There's a case on either side," he said. "It was two political judges that voted against him," in the Appellate Court, "but they don't define the law."

Rose notes there are seven different justices on the state's Supreme Court and "their decision will be political too." He added, "It's going to be a political decision made by political judges and ultimately the politics will define this."

One of the high court justices' is Anne Burke, wife of Chicago Alderman Edward Burke who belongs to one of the most powerfully connected machine families in the state. Mr. Burke chaired the committee that "slated" the two judges who voted against Emanuel being on the ballot in the Appellate Court. Mr. Burke has openly supported one of Emanuel's leading opponents, Gery Chico, for mayor and Anne Burke is refusing to recuse herself from the Emanuel case on the high court.

Many say this is all just an intriguing refresher course for how the game of politics is played in the Windy City and in Illinois where judges are elected.

If Emanuel wins his case he will likely become Chicago's next mayor. He would replace Richard M. Daley, who recently announced his retirement after becoming the longest serving mayor here since 1989.

Emanuel's lawyers say he should be exempted from the residency challenge because he was living in Washington in service to the country. Emanuel is leading in the polls by double digits and in campaign fund-raising. He would become Chicago's first Jewish mayor. Emanuel says becoming mayor should be up to the voters and they deserve the right to decide.

Rose notes whether or not Emanuel ends up on the ballot, it's not a question of democracy or fairness. "Should he be on the ballot," asked Rose. "Unequivocally, yes," he said. "Is he the right man for Chicago, well I have very serious doubts about that. Defending his right to be on the ballot has nothing to do with my opinion about his politics," said Rose.

But others think it's not very democratic that Emanuel has 100 times more money than the other community-based candidates. The Supreme Court justices are ultimately making a choice about what section of the Democratic machine is going to end up on top, independent activists claim. They note the irony of a residency ordeal that has actually helped Emanuel's campaign gain momentum, making him appear as a sympathetic figure.

"What's decided in the courts won't really be a game changer because Emanuel has enough money to argue his case and keep his name on the ballot," said Rudy Lozano Jr., an educator and community organizer (and this author's brother).

Lozano came within some 400 votes of an upset victory in a 2010 Illinois Democratic primary for state representative against incumbent Daniel Burke, Edward Burke's brother.

"From the start Emanuel's campaign has been one based on bullying, intimidation and abuse of financial resources," said Lozano. "We need to elect a new kind of mayor that truly represents the working people and minority communities of Chicago." Emanuel on the other hand has major contributions from some of the wealthiest sectors of society, which do not adequately represent Chicago's diverse and majority residents, he said.

 Photo: Rahm Emanuel smiles during a Jan. 4th news conference  in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)


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  • I'm voting for the most honest, progressive, independent candidate: Miguel del Valle.

    Posted by Tom Shepherd, 01/29/2011 8:41pm (5 years ago)

  • The news media here in Chicago annointed Emanuel mayor even before he formally announced he was running. Coverage had him as the front runner weeks before he announced. All the newspapers stated editorally he should be on the ballot. Almost every columnist has stated he should be on the ballot.

    When Emanuel ran for Congress he had opponents kicked off the ballot. Now, he cries foul when the same is done to him.

    Meanwhile two community activists who are running for mayor have been shut out of all major debates. William "Dock" Walls, former aide to the late Mayor Harold Washington, and Patricia Van Pelt Watkins, an activist from the Auburn-Gresham community, have to scramble in order to get any news media coverage.

    Walls has virtually no campaign war chest, while Watkins has several hundred thousand in funds, most of it coming from the pastor of a church to which she is a member.

    Lozano is correct. The Emanuel campaign is based on bullying and financial abuse. Just like the line from the film, Reservoir Dogs, "it's my way or the highway."

    Unfortunately Danny Davis, the only progressive candidate that was in the race. decided weeks ago to drop out and back former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun. Perhaps Davis didn't have the fight left to take on the Emanuel Machine. A pity.

    Posted by detectivetom, 01/28/2011 1:40am (5 years ago)

  • Thanks for this article Pepe. Those of us that aren't living in Chicago don't know the ins and outs of the politics there. We'll need an article on the different candidates also.

    Posted by Armando Ramirez, 01/27/2011 12:06pm (5 years ago)

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