SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
The most entertaining political show in Chicago this week was watching Rahm Emanuel being asked to talk about what he left or didn't in his basement. Mr. Emanuel, who's running for mayor of Chicago, appeared before a three-day board of election commissioners hearing to make his case that he remained a resident of the city even as he was President Obama's chief of staff in Washington, D.C.
The Emanuels sublet their home while they were away, saying they always intended to return. Mr. Emanuel returned to Chicago in October but his renter refused to end his lease. Chicago election laws require that a candidate for municipal office be a city resident for a full year before the election.
Carol Marin is back with us. She's political columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and political editor for NBC 5 News. She joins us from WFMT in Chicago. Thanks so much for being with us, Carol.
Ms. CAROL MARIN (Chicago Sun-Times): My pleasure, Scott.
SIMON: And so help us understand the significance of what's in the basement or isn't.
Ms. MARIN: This is the saga of the stored boxes. So the claim is that - by Rahm Emanuel - that he and his wife put many boxes away in the basement, of her wedding dress, the kids' baby clothes, all as evidence that those treasured possessions were being stored there because that in fact was their home and the home to which they would return.
Then the renter's wife - this would be the renter from hell - comes in and says there are no boxes here. I've seen no boxes. There is no evidence of baby clothes or wedding dresses. Which led the lawyers in this to go to the house, dig in the crawlspace, take their cameras and alas discover that there were boxes and possessions.
SIMON: A lot of what this turns on might have to do with the phrase - I gather it's an Illinois state law that says someone who is, quote, "away on the business of the United States" is still a resident. Now, people suggested this week that was meant to apply to members of the military. But wouldn't the White House chief of staff certainly be on U.S. business?
Ms. MARIN: Yes, except that someone who is a chef in the White House kitchen is in that same capacity in a way, or the social secretary. The argument that the objectors make, the objectors to Emanuel, is that this really is a soldier serving in Afghanistan, say, that one kind of law, voting law, says you have a right as a soldier in the military to vote.
But candidate law is a privilege, it isn't a right. And so it's subject to the municipal code of a given place and some of them can be pretty picky.
SIMON: As I certainly don't have to tell you, Mr. Emanuel can be celebrated for his salty turns of phrase and sometimes quick temper. He wasn't that way this week, was he? He was remarkably patient.
Ms. MARIN: Eleven hours, Scott, of the first day of testimony with Rahm Emanuel in the witness seat, and he was watched very closely. And he was keenly aware he was being watched closely, because as you suggest, he has a propensity for profanity and for a pretty volatile temper at times. And he was tested.
The objectors - there were legal objectors, lawyers who do this and were very lawyerly about it, but then there were citizen objectors, all kinds of them, coming from all parts of Chicago, and they were a bit more - colorful. And so Rahm Emanuel's patience was tested. He passed the test pretty well.
SIMON: And for the moment, it must be said, whatever the polls mean, although Mr. Emanuel has, as we call it, a double-digit lead, he doesn't seem to be crowding the 50 percent mark that would avoid a runoff.
Ms. MARIN: No. He has 32 percent in the latest poll, and coming in second on that poll with 30 percent is undecided. And so there is a long way to go before we get to February 22. And the first phase of this, if he or someone else doesn't get 50 percent plus one, there's a whole new election looming for April and that will even be more rugged, I would say.
SIMON: So when does the Rahm Emanuel residency question get settled?
Ms. MARIN: Probably, Scott, next week somewhere, at least in this phase. This is just chapter one. This is the Chicago board of elections. This will automatically - no matter who wins or who loses - this will go into Cook County Circuit Court at level one and then to the appellate probably and then possibly to the Illinois Supreme Court. This is going to be a story in many parts.
SIMON: You know, Carol, I left some stuff there too. Can I ask you to run by and pick it up when you get a...
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. MARIN: Yeah, I...
SIMON: I think I left Mrs. Emanuel's wedding dress, I'm sorry. Carol, thanks so much.
Ms. MARIN: You're welcome, dear. Take care.
SIMON: Carol Marin, political columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Channel 5 and so on.
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