An Illinois state Appellate Court, in a surprising 2-1 vote yesterday, removed former White House Chief of Staff and Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D) from the Chicago mayoral ballot. Recent polling (WGN/Chicago Tribune; Jan. 16-19; 708 self-described likely voters) gave President Obama’s top staff member a comfortable 44-21% lead over ex-US Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, so the court action is causing major reverberations for all associated campaigns. The joint media survey placed Board of Education President Gery Chico third at 16% while City Clerk Miguel de Valle lags behind in single-digits (7%).
Earlier, US Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL-7) and state Sen. James Meeks dropped out of the race in an effort to coalesce the African-American community solely behind Moseley Braun, with the hope of forcing a two-person run-off between Emanuel and her. If no candidate receives 50% plus one vote in the February 22nd election, a run-off contest between the top two finishers is scheduled for April.
The court reasoned that Emanuel, despite winning unanimously in a related administrative ruling before the state Board of Elections, does not meet Chicago’s electoral residency requirement. The judicial panel maintained that he did not reside in the city during the past year. The former chief of staff will appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, which must rule quickly. Early voting already begins January 31st.
The Supreme Court, an elected body that features four Democrats and three Republicans, has the power to reinstate Emanuel and is expected to do so. But, how much will this distraction take away from his potential to win the race outright in February? The answer will soon be forthcoming.