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Posted at 1:45 PM ET, 12/23/2010

Election board: Emanuel still Chicago resident

By Felicia Sonmez

Updated: 1:45 p.m.

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners has rejected claims that Rahm Emanuel abandoned his residency when he left the city to work for the Obama administration, giving the former White House chief of staff a key victory in his bid to succeed retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley.

The board's ruling followed the recommendation earlier Thursday by one of its hearing officers that Emanuel's name be allowed on the ballot.

"It has not been established that the candidate, a resident of Chicago, abandoned his status as such a resident," election board hearing officer Joseph Morris wrote in a 35-page ruling. "In any event, his absence from Illinois during the time in question is excused, for purposes of the safeguarding and retention of his status as a resident and elector, by express operation of Illinois law."

Emanuel said that he had been "encouraged" by Morris' recommendation, adding that it "affirms what I have said all along -- that the only reason I left town was to serve President Obama and that I always intended to return."

Nearly three dozen Chicago citizens had filed legal challenges charging that, by moving to Washington in order to work as White House chief of staff, Emanuel abandoned his Chicago residency and does not meet the one-year residency requirement necessary to run for Chicago mayor.

Emanuel's side contended that the candidate's intent was to remain a Chicago resident, citing the fact that he still owns his home in the city, pays property taxes there and voted absentee in Chicago even after moving to Washington.

The board's decision came after a lengthy hearing process this month during which Emanuel presented evidence of his residency, including the contents of the basement of his North Side home, and was questioned by a parade of colorful characters.

But the residency matter appears far from settled. The losing side in the case will have one week to appeal its decision to the Cook County Circuit Court. Those challenging Emanuel's residency have said that they are prepared to take the case all the way to the state Supreme Court, a process that could take up several of the weeks that remain before the Feb. 22 mayoral contest.

By Felicia Sonmez  | December 23, 2010; 1:45 PM ET
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