Emanuel testifies before Chicago election board official

Associated Press
Tuesday, December 14, 2010; 11:39 PM

CHICAGO - Rahm Emanuel, who left a powerful job with President Obama at the White House to move back to Chicago and run for mayor, endured hours of questioning Tuesday from people intent on keeping his name off the ballot.

Testifying before a Chicago election board official during a hearing that was sometimes funny, contentious and downright strange, Emanuel defended himself against opponents who say he is not eligible to run for mayor in February's election because he moved out of the city to take a job as Obama's White House chief of staff.

Speaking in a quiet voice, his hands clasped before him and a photograph of his family in front of him, Emanuel looked and sounded nothing like a politician widely known for his tough, take-no-prisoners and often profane style.

After nine hours of testimony, he took questions from his own attorneys.

Throughout the day, Emanuel appeared relaxed and smiled easily, once joking as his income tax returns were shown on the screen in the room that "it does call for tax reform, I'll tell you that." And he laughed when one of his questioners, a community activist dressed in a T-shirt, signaled that he was out of questions when he joked, "Have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"

"I enjoyed that," Emanuel said.

But Emanuel also addressed the issue of his leaving Chicago with what his attorneys and supporters think is evidence that he intended to return to the Windy City.

He listed the family's "most valuable possessions" that he left in his house after he and his family moved to the District in 2009, including his wife's wedding dress, clothes his children wore home from the hospital just after they were born, photographs, his children's report cards and their drawings.

And he repeatedly came back to a theme he has sounded throughout his campaign to succeed the retiring mayor, Richard Daley: He left his job as a Chicago congressman and moved his family to Washington only to work for the president.

"The only reason I no longer put my head down in that house is the president of the United States at a time of crisis asked me to serve as chief of staff," he said.

Opponents of Emanuel's candidacy say that he forfeited his residency when he moved and rented out his house on the city's North Side. They say the law is clear: To run for mayor, a person has to be a resident of the city for a year before Election Day, and Emanuel, who moved back to Chicago in October, does not qualify.

The hearing was expected to continue Tuesday night and Wednesday.

A decision will be made within days because officials have said they need to settle on the list of candidates well before the Feb. 22 election.

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