Rahm's Back In The Running For Chicago Mayor

Host Scott Simon talks to Carol Marin, political columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and political editor for NBC 5 News, about the Illinois Supreme Court ruling that put former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel back of the ballot in the Chicago mayor's race.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Rahm Emanuel's name is back on the ballot, this time for good. The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously overturned an appellate court ruling that Mr. Emanuel did not meet the Chicago's residency requirements to run for mayor, because he had lived in Washington D.C. while serving as President Obama's chief of staff and hadnt returned to reside in Chicago long enough before he started to run.

Got that? What an eventful week, that began with the ruling that knocked Mr. Emanuel off the ballot, the decision that put him back on and a debate of the mayoral candidates.

Carol Marin, a political columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and political editor for NBC 5 News, has been covering the campaign. She joins us now from member station WBEZ.

Woo. Thanks for being with us, Carol.

Ms. CAROL MARIN (Political columnist, Chicago Sun-Times; Political editor, NBC 5 News): My pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: What was the basis of the Supreme Court ruling, as you read it?

Ms. MARIN: The Supreme Court ruling in uncharacteristically, I think strong language, said that the appellate court didn't get it right. That it was trying to reverse 150 years of Illinois history in which once you've established a residency, if you go away for a bit to Congress, to be a judge, to your summer home in Florida, as long as you don't intend to abandon your home and your residency, you're a resident.

SIMON: Now, Mr. Emanuel won the court battle. Any political cost though, for being portrayed as some kind of out-of-towner?

Ms. MARIN: Quite the contrary, Scott. You know, Rahm Emanuel, whom you know and many of us in Chicago and the nation know, has some pretty hard and brittle edges. This has transformed him into a victim, a sympathetic character. It is the unintended consequence of the people who wanted to dump him from the ballot that Emanuel got tons of free media in addition to the millions he can spend on paid media and all of it cast him as the guy who people were trying to do something bad to.

SIMON: What about revelations in some of the financial reports that came out a few days before this that Mr. Emanuel had received hundreds of thousands of dollars from very famous people including, Steve Jobs, Steven Spielberg who, however eminent, are out-of-towners?

Ms. MARIN: They're all or not all - but many of them are out-of-towners. Many of them have a Hollywood connection, certainly a vast money connection. But it didn't seem to make a strenuous dent in Mr. Emanuel's image either. It showed that he had the juice to do what he needed to do. There are certainly critics who believe that money always controls these elections and that that's the basic unfairness of it all. And we should point out that Mr. Emanuel could only capture that money until December 31st, then the rules here in Illinois change for what you can raise in campaign financing. That $100,000 would have been only $5,000 a day after December 31st. So he's following the rules but those rules are interesting things.

SIMON: I guess it had been assumed that there was going to be a second round. Whats your feeling, your judgment, Carol? Is it approaching now just a little less than a month before this first round that it's possible that one of the candidates will get 50 percent or more?

Ms. MARIN: Its absolutely possible. As you know, this is a nonpartisan municipal election, though all the front runners are essentially Democrats.

Gery Chico, who one might argue, along with Carol Moseley Braun, are next in the pack. Miguel del Valle, who is the city clerk, he has very little money but a lot of community juice. And if one gets 50 percent plus one, they're the next mayor of the city of Chicago.

In the beginning, when there were many more candidates, that didnt look possible. But you can do the math right now and say that is within the reach of possibility. Emanuels polling at about 44 percent. His next closest contender is at about 22 percent, and so in the next three-and-a-half weeks its possible that that could be a one winner-take-all election.

SIMON: Political columnist and commentator Carol Marin. Thanks for so much.

Ms. MARIN: My pleasure. Take care, Scott.

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