Burt Odelson, the lawyer who filed a residency challenge to knock Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel off the ballot predicted Friday the case will end up in the Illinois Supreme Court as Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said the challenge is "frivolous."
In terms of the brewing legal fight against President Obama's former White House Chief of Staff, "this is a case where either side is going to go all the way," Odelson told me.
The challenge will first go to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners; the loser will appeal to the Cook County Circuit Court, an Illinois Appeals court and eventually the Illinois Supreme Court. The Emanuel team did not want to comment on any potential appeals. But it is routine in a case like this for the courts to be asked to handle all appeals on an expedited basis.
Odelson filed a motion Friday before the city election board asking that the case be expedited "so that the voters of the City of Chicago know who the candidates will be for the February 22, 2011 election
Odelson wants the Emanuel case to go directly to the election commissioners and skip the hearing officer phase. On that front, Odelson asked that Langdon Neal, the Chairman of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners recuse himself from the case 'due to statements that he has made to the press concerning his interpretation of what residency means in relation to qualifications to run for elective office in the City of Chicago."
Under state law, candidates must clear a series of hurdles to win a place on a ballot--collecting the right number of valid signatures on nominating petitions, having the people who pass the petitions follow the rules and fulfilling residency requirements.
Knocking rivals off ballots because they have not cleared all those legal hurdles is routine in Chicago. President Obama got his start in politics winning a state senate seat when his allies forced his rivals off the ballot, including his most formidable opposition, now former state Sen. Alice Palmer (D-Chicago).
Odelson defended Palmer in the Obama challenge. (Palmer went on to support Hillary Rodham Clinton's Democratic presidential primary bid over Obama; memories are long in Chicago.)
As my Sun-Times colleague Abdon M. Pallasch noted in an earlier story, Emanuel once used the very tactics he now deplores.
Wrote Pallasch, "Emanuel's attorney on the residency challenge, Mike Kasper, filed a challenge against Emanuel's sole opponent in the 2004 Democratic primary, Mark A. Fredrickson. The challenge -- alleging Fredrickson started gathering signatures too early -- failed but Emanuel beat Fredrickson in the primary."
The Emanuel camp argues that Emanuel always intended to return to Chicago and he left only to serve Obama. Schakowsky said in a conference call organized by the Emanuel campaign, "Rahm should not be punished for responding to the call of the president."
Odelson argues that the law will weigh physical presence--not intent. Emanuel rented out his Chicago home when he moved to Washington, with a lease running to next June.
Schakowsky said she was trying to "stop the efforts to hijack the election" from a group of "insiders" who she did not name.
All of a sudden Emanuel is not an insider in the political world he inhabits in Chicago?