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AP sources: Emanuel leaving White House on Friday
"His actions are very clear," Odelson said. "He doesn't comply with the statute."
Friends and supporters say Emanuel's decision to rent his house and not sell it is a clear indication he's always planned to move back to Chicago and say he's continued to use the address to vote absentee.
Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen said Thursday he couldn't speak specifically to Emanuel's situation. But, generally, he said a candidate or voter who takes "some type of out of town assignment" but maintains registration and votes absentee "has given an indication of an intent to return and is considered a resident."
Dawn Clark Netsch, a law professor and constitutional scholar who helped write the Illinois Constitution, said called residency "a matter of intent."
"If you register to vote and vote that's a pretty good sign of intent and therefore residency," Netsch said.
Legal resident or not, Emanuel will surely have to defend himself against attacks that he's an outsider. That might explain why, as people close to him have said, one of the first things he plans to do upon returning to Chicago is visit neighborhoods and talk to voters.
While Emanuel and his supporters say he was attentive in representing his North Side district in Congress from 2003 to 2009, others will try to remind voters that it's been a couple years since he did much more than vote in the city.
"They will go back to (voters) and say remember when I busted my ass to get your street light fixed, can I count on your vote?" said Mike McKeon, a national pollster based in suburban Chicago.
None of the other potential contenders have Emanuel's national name recognition, but are all well known to local voters. They include Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who has been telephoning friends to say he is running; former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, whose supporters are circulating nominating petitions; U.S. Reps. Danny Davis and Luis Gutierrez; and State Sen. James Meeks, a prominent black minister.
With well over $1 million in his campaign fund and a history of raising millions of dollars for other candidates, Emanuel's campaign promises to be well funded. Prospective opponents, though, remain undaunted.
"I don't think it will come down to money," Meeks said. "It will come down to track record, who can show what they have done and not who can say what they intend to do."
AP White House Correspondent Ben Feller contributed to this report from Washington.