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Posted at 4:46 PM ET, 01/25/2011

Let Rahm -- and non-residents in general -- run!

By Ezra Klein

Whatever the Illinois Supreme Court decides, the law that's thrown Rahm Emanuel's mayoral hopes into doubt seems, well, pretty dumb. What's the point of a rule saying that Chicago's mayor had to reside in Chicago for the 365 days preceding the election? What are the voters being protected from, exactly?

Michael Bloomberg is considered a pretty good big-city mayor. He's got a good staff around him, and a lot of experience working with city bureaucracy, and an apparent zest for the job. Maybe, after he gets term-limited out in New York, he'd like to continue being a big-city mayor. And maybe Chicagoans would be interested in having him be a pretty good big-city mayor in Chicago. Why should there be a rule against him running in the election? It'd obviously be fair for Chicagoans to decide against electing a New Yorker to lead Chicago, but why should there be a rule on the books denying them the option? What's the nightmare scenario here? A Californian?

We don't do this at other levels of city government. Bill Bratton was an extremely effective police chief in New York and then he became an extremely effective police chief in Los Angeles. We don't do this in business. Large corporations routinely pay top dollars to hire CEOs from other firms. And they don't do this in other countries. in China, for example, you become mayor of big cities by doing a good job as mayor of smaller cities. So why do we do it here?

By Ezra Klein  | January 25, 2011; 4:46 PM ET
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I completely agree with the basic point.
I just wish people who want more mobility among local office holders (Klein, Cohn, Yglesias) wouldn't all point to China: The reason China stands out is that the government _moves_ the mayors around. No elections involved. So China dramatically overstates the likelihood of out-of-town mayors.

There are no residency requirements for mayors in Germany, either, for example. Nevertheless, almost all mayors end up being politicians with at least strong local ties - usually residents (but someone like Rahm E. wouldn't be unusual - the green party candidate for mayor of Berlin who has a decent shot is a prominent national level politician).

There are exceptions, though - one of the people I studied with decided to become mayor after he got his degree and ran a professional campaign emphasizing meritocratic ideas in a small-ish Souther German town -- and won.

Posted by: adamsmith5 | January 25, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

The law doesn't say the candidate had to have "resided" in the city for a year. It says he must have been a resident for a year. And a resident--by any legal standard used for regular residents--he was. You've gone to the wrong paper for information, so I'll quote today's Tribune editorial:

With startling arrogance and audaciously twisted reasoning, two appellate judges ignored more than 100 years of legal precedent, invented a new definition of "residency" and ordered Rahm Emanuel off the Feb. 22 mayoral ballot.

With the election just four weeks away, the appellate panel voted 2-1 to reverse the decisions of the Chicago Board of Elections and a Circuit Court judge. It's an adventurous, flawed ruling that has immediate and profound consequences. ...

the two appellate justices twisted themselves into a pretzel to come up with an argument to disqualify him. Insisting that they had "no Supreme Court directive" on which to rely and hanging their hat on an interpretation found in a case they acknowledge "lacks precedential force," the justices decided that the phrase "resided in" has one meaning when applied to voters and another when applied to candidates.

This distinction, Lampkin notes, "is a figment of the majority's imagination" and "a standard that the majority just conjured out of thin air." In the process, the justices disregarded a case that has guided residency rulings for 122 years, she wrote.,0,848590.story

The Supreme Court has already put a stay on this and ordered Emanuel's name to appear on the ballot until it decides. And after today's thrashing--and the revelation that both of the judges who wrote the ruling were slated into their positions by Chicago's most powerful and oldest alderman, Edward Burke--who just happens to have endorsed Emanuel's rival, Gery Chico, and whose wife (get this) is an Illinois Supreme Court Justice--it's going to be a very interesting few days. Prediction: Emanuel will be on the ballot, and will receive a larger vote than he would have had this ridiculous ruling not been handed down.

Posted by: JJenkins2 | January 25, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

" What are the voters being protected from, exactly?"

big money buying all the mayor and governorships? carpet baggers?
sports "hero" running.

one should have to live where one is running

Posted by: newagent99 | January 25, 2011 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I'd argue that being an elected official is different than being a manager of a corporation or a police department.

How could the voters expect someone not from their community to fairly represent them?

Posted by: lcrider1 | January 25, 2011 6:10 PM | Report abuse

I say let him run. If the people of Chicago are dumb enough to elect this little creep, then they get what they deserve!

Posted by: my4653 | January 25, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

How do you feel about foreigners holding office? Would you be open to Schwarzenegger running for President?

Posted by: DrPanglos | January 25, 2011 7:44 PM | Report abuse

"How do you feel about foreigners holding office? Would you be open to Schwarzenegger running for President?"

Not sure what connects the two questions, since Schwarzenegger isn't a "foreigner".

But if you're asking about the "natural-born" requirement in for the presidency, then it's outdated and the best way to get rid of it is to amend the constitution in a way that's post-dated sufficiently that it excludes current politicians, and thus makes it less about individuals than the principle.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | January 25, 2011 11:40 PM | Report abuse

Lets face it, if the tables were turned and it was Rahm who thought he had to knock someone off the ballot, does anyone doubt what he would do?

Posted by: leoklein | January 26, 2011 1:02 AM | Report abuse

P.S. Someone who trashes deep dish pizza and who thinks they ate locally by going to Alinea (of all places) ought not to be commenting on Chicago politics one way or another.

Posted by: leoklein | January 26, 2011 1:09 AM | Report abuse

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