Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel cleared a legal hurdle early Thursday morning when a hearing officer in the case challenging his Chicago residency recommended that his name appear on the Feb. 22 ballot.
Morris, in his findings, concluded that Emanuel never abandoned his Chicago residency because "his absence was occasioned by his attention to business of the United States" and therefore fell within an Illinois law that allows residency to be preserved when one departs to be of service to the U.S.
Emanuel had argued that he only left the city to work for Obama and kept all his ties to Chicago -- such as his driver's license -- intact because he intended to move back, even storing things in the basement of his home. Emanuel's challengers said he gave up his residency because he never established another place to live in Chicago.
Morris ruled, "There is no principled reason to exclude service in the Executive Office of the President of elsewhere in the executive branch" under Illinois law "any more than to exclude service in the armed forces, in the diplomatic corps, Congress or the Federal judiciary."
He concluded, "The preponderance of the evidence established that the sole reason for the Candidate's absence from Chicago during 2009 and 2010 was by reason of attendance to business of the United States," Morris found.
State law requires mayoral candidates to be residents of their city one year before the primary.
Emanuel said in a statement, "While the decision rests with the Commissioners, I am encouraged by this recommendation. It affirms what I have said all along -- that the only reason I left town was to serve President Obama and that I always intended to return. Chicago voters should ultimately have the right to decide the election -- and to vote for me, or against me. And they deserve a swift conclusion to this process so that the campaign can focus on the challenges facing the city and the need for safe streets, strong schools, and stable city finances."
Emanuel's residency challenge still has several steps to play out. After the three commissioners rule, his main challengers may take the case to the Cook County Circuit, appellate and state Supreme Court.