STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Rahm Emanuel is on the ballot in Chicago. Emanuel quit as President Obama's chief of staff a few months ago in order to run for mayor in his hometown. He was the front-runner in next month's election, until he was knocked off the ballot by an Illinois court, which ruled he did not meet residency requirements. But late yesterday, the state Supreme Court reversed that ruling.
From Chicago, NPR's David Schaper reports.
DAVID SCHAPER: A state appeals court had ruled earlier this week that Rahm Emanuel was not eligible to be a candidate for mayor of Chicago, because he did not live in the city for one full year prior to next month's election, as required by Illinois law.
The appellate justices agreed that for the purposes of voting, Emanuel maintained residency when he moved to Washington two years ago to serve as President Obama's chief of staff. But they ruled there is a higher residency standard for candidates.
Professor DAWN CLARK NETSCH (Law, Northwestern University): It developed a whole new standard here at virtually the 11th hour before the election in Chicago.
SCHAPER: Northwestern University law Professor Dawn Clark Netsch played a key role in re-drafting the Illinois constitution in 1970. She says the Illinois Supreme Court's unanimous decision to reverse the appeals court and reinstate Emanuel to the February 22nd ballot is the right call.
Prof. NETSCH: Nobody really questioned that he was a resident in the sense that he had been born, raised here, lived here, served Congress from here, but had gone off to serve the president of the United States.
SCHAPER: Netsch calls it troubling that the appellate justices would invent this new standard. The justices on the Illinois Supreme Court weren't nearly so nice. In a scathing majority opinion, five of the justices sharply rebuked the appellate court, calling its reasoning fundamentally flawed and mysterious, tossing out 150 years of settled residency law to create a new and undefined standard without any foundation in Illinois law.
Professor BILL KRESSE (St. Xavier University): I'm not at all surprised at the finding of the majority in the Supreme Court. I am somewhat troubled by the tenor of the case.
SCHAPER: Bill Kresse is a professor at St. Xavier University in Chicago, who is also a hearing officer for the city's Board of Elections.
Prof. KRESSE: It would seem that President Obama's call for civility may not have reached the Illinois Supreme Court.
SCHAPER: Kresse agrees with the two Supreme Court justices who wrote a separate opinion agreeing Emanuel should be on the ballot, but pointing out that the definition of residency in Illinois has not always been clear cut.
Attorneys for those who challenged his residency acknowledge that they have no recourse to appeal to the federal courts, so Emanuel is on the ballot for good.
Mr. RAHM EMANUEL (Mayoral Candidate, Chicago): I'm relieved for the city. I'm relieved for the voters, because they need the certainty that's important to them.
SCHAPER: At an elevated train platform in Chicago's Loop where he greeted evening commuters, Emanuel told reporters he's glad the residency fight is now behind him so he can focus on the issues in this campaign.
Mr. EMANUEL: I've got to be honest. We're a pretty avid Scrabble-playing family. I have banned the word resident in Scrabble in our household. I never want to see it again. Even if you get it on a triple word, you're not allowed to use it. Thank you, guys.
SCHAPER: He then left for a live, televised debate, where he mixed it up with his three major opponents, City Clerk Miguel Del Valle, former School Board President Gery Chico, and former Senator Carol Moseley Braun. They're sharpening their attacks on Emanuel, as he reclaims the pole position in a race for Chicago mayor that is entering its final 25 days.
David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.
(Soundbite of music)
INSKEEP: This is NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.