By Jeff Coen, Bob Secter and David Kidwell, Chicago Tribune
The ballot roller coaster forÂ Rahm Emanuel finally stopped Thursday with the formerÂ White Housechief of staff very much in the race for mayor and theÂ Illinois Supreme Court emphatically rejecting a contentious challenge to hisÂ Chicago residency.
Within minutes of the high court ruling, Emanuel was back shaking hands with voters, taking a congratulatory call from his old boss,Â President Barack Obama, and working to recapture an aura of invincibility he had worked hard to project until an Appellate Court ruling threatened to boot him from the Feb. 22 contest.
The debate over whether Emanuel was qualified to run began the moment he resigned hisÂ Washington post and returned to Chicago in September, only to find the tenant in hisÂ Lakeviewhouse was unwilling to let him move back in. It ended in a flurry of legal activity this week that rendered the episode all but meaningless.
But the months-long legal fight did serve to lavish free publicity on a candidacy that needed no extra help, given Emanuel’s huge lead in fundraising and his 2-to-1 edge over the next closest rival in a recent Tribune/WGN-TV poll.
The voters deserved the right to make the choice of who should be mayor. And I think what the Supreme Court said was basically, in short, that the voters will make the decision who should be mayor,” a victorious Emanuel said after slapping backs and shaking hands with commuters at the Clark and Lake elevated train stop near his downtown headquarters.
The abrupt end to the legal challenge came two hours before the first live televised debate between Emanuel and the three other major candidates vying to replace retiringÂ Mayor Richard Daley: City ClerkÂ Miguel del Valle, former U.S. Sen.Â Carol Moseley Braun andÂ Gery Chico, a former top Daley aide and Chicago schools chief. Indeed, the residency controversy was the first question that came up at the debate, presented by the Tribune and theÂ City Club of Chicago.
Chico, for one, appeared to nod to that reality after Thursday’s ruling.
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