ABC's Chris Bury reports from Chicago:
In Washington, Rahm Emanuel had the President’s ear, directed the White House staff, strong-armed members of Congress, and enjoyed his status as a powerful political operative. Now, running for mayor of Chicago, Emanuel finds himself embroiled in an acrimonious debate about his residency—fending off endless questions about such mundane matters as the city sticker on his car, the clothes left behind in his Chicago home, and the hotels his family stayed in during their visits to the city.
For more than six hours, Emanuel calmly endured sometimes hostile questions from ordinary citizens and an attorney representing political opponents who want him thrown off the ballot in Chicago’s February 22nd mayoral election. Emanuel chuckled as election lawyer Burton Odelson asked him pointedly, “You’re aware that the statutes in Illinois require that a candidate be a resident of the municipality for one year prior to the election?” Emanuel ‘s attorneys argue that the election law hinges on intent and that, by keeping a Chicago home and voting absentee from Chicago, he demonstrated his intention to remain a citizen of the city he hopes to run.
Odelson displayed real estate pictures of empty rooms in Emanuel’s north side home, apparently in an effort to demonstrate the family took nearly all of their possessions to Washington. “That room is the kitchen?” Odelson asked. “Very good, Mr. Odelson, yes,” Emanuel answered. The mayoral candidate described family items left in storage at the home, including his wife’s wedding dress, family pictures, china, a piano, and a coat worn by his grandfather.
Even the storage of that coat came under fire from a Chicagoan, wearing a large black hat, who identified herself as “Queen Sister.” Thundering from the podium, she railed at Emanuel. “YOU allowed your most prized possessions, your granddaddy’s Technicolor coat, your baby’s piano, and all of these things that you so value sentimentally to stay in the home of a stranger? “ Later in the proceedings, Emanuel said, “I would like the record to reflect it’s not a Technicolor dreamcoat…. Imitation leather.”
Emanuel testified that he rented out the home after being named President Obama’s chief of staff. His tenant, Rob Halpin, refused to move out when Emanuel indicated his desire to run for mayor and, briefly, considered a mayoral run himself before dropping out of the race.
Watch some of the hearing here:
One woman in the audience was ejected by security officers when she interrupted the hearing, shouting, “Your hearings are out of order if you don’t want to acknowledge how state law reads.”
Opponents picked away at Emanuel’s car registration, the terms of his lease, and the schools in which his children were enrolled. Emanuel, looking alternately bemused and frustrated, responded to a question about e-mails from his wife regarding a car registration sticker by saying, “I’ve learned after 15 years not to doubt my wife.”
The hearing, expected to last two more days, will produce a recommendation to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Its final decision will undoubtedly be appealed in Illinois courts. So the quarrelsome battle over Rahm’s residency is likely to continue right up until the election and, quite possibly, well beyond it.