Though speculation has circulated for weeks that former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel may not meet residency requirements to run for Chicago mayor, no official challenge had been made. But Wednesday afternoon, the first petitions challenging Emanuel's residency qualification were received by the Chicago Board of Elections.
Each of the five petitions collected Wednesday reportedly contend that Emanual, having only recently relocated from Washington, DC, hasn't lived in the city of Chicago for the past year and is ineligible to run for mayor.
According to local news reports, the petition drive seems to stem from a "loose-knit coalition of street advocates and ex-felons calling themselves 'Voices of the Ex-Offenders.'" Paul McKinley, one of the group's chief organizers, was in Chicago's Daley Plaza working to recruit more city residents to join his cause when the local NBC affiliate caught up with him.
"If we break the law, there are consequences, and Rahm Emanuel is breaking the law," he said. "If he breaks the law, and he's moving to the second-highest office in Illinois, well by God, who's got to set the standard?"
McKinley's group isn't the only one planning to challenge Emanuel's bid for Mayor. Election law attorney Burt Odelson says he's planning to file a petition of his own Friday afternoon. Odelson claims his petition represents three individuals with different backgrounds and worries that Emanuel's bid "rises almost above the law."
On Tuesday night, the Emanual campaign began its damage control, circulating an email to supporters dismissing concerns over his residency:
You've probably seen the reports this week that say that a lawyer is planning to file a challenge claiming that Rahm is not a Chicago resident in an attempt to knock him off the ballot. That's after more than 90,000 of you signed petitions saying that he should be a candidate for Mayor. ...
Make no mistake: political games are being played to limit your choices for Mayor. ...
The editorial boards of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune, as well as three former Presidents of the Chicago Bar Association, have weighed in to say that Rahm is a resident and should be allowed to run.
An astounding 20 candidates have filed to run for mayor, including Rob Halpin, the man who currently lives in Emanuel's Chicago home -- a home Emanuel owns but leased when he relocated his family to Washington, DC.
Despite these electoral challenges, Emanuel is undoubtedly giving thanks Thursday for an early lead in the polls. A poll released Wednesday from the Chicago Retail Merchants Association shows the former congressman leading the mayoral field with 39 percent of the vote -- a significant lead over the runner-up candidate, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun who commands only 12 percent.