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Illinois Supreme Court keeps Emanuel on ballot

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Rahm 'happy' about being on ballot
  • NEW: Four mayoral hopefuls debate issues
  • Candidate gets congratulatory call from the president
  • Rahm Emanuel wins a court ruling on his Chicago residency
  • The election is less than a month away

(CNN) -- The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday that former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel met residency requirements and that his name will stay on the mayoral ballot in Chicago.

The justices said Emanuel's opponents did not prove that he had given up residency when he served in the Obama administration in Washington.

"Given the record before us, it is simply not possible to find clearly erroneous the (Chicago Board of Elections') determination that the objectors failed to prove that the candidate had abandoned his Chicago residence," the court ruled in a unanimous decision.

Emanuel took part in a debate Thursday night with Carol Moseley Braun, Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle, his top opponents in the February 22 election. He garnered the judicial victory four days before early voting begins.

When asked their reaction to the ruling, all of the debate participants said that issues, including jobs, schools, public safety and city finances, were of more importance to voters.

Rahm Emanuel reacts to ballot decision
Rahm Emanuel back on Chicago ballot
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Emanuel was out campaigning when he heard the news on the ruling. "I immediately called my wife," he told reporters. "I also called my parents, and I took a call from the president of the United States."

"I am happy," the candidate said. "We now have a conclusion so the voters can make a decision of who will be the mayor."

After the ruling, Chico said the legal debate over Emanuel's residency "has made this election into a circus instead of a serious debate about the future of Chicago."

"With less than 30 days to go until Election Day, there is no time to waste," Chico said in a statement. "Game on."

Emanuel, a former congressman from Chicago who left the White House in October, has long argued that his stint in Washington was only a temporary assignment and that he still considered himself to be a resident of Chicago.

The state Supreme Court said the definition of residency for election purposes was established long ago.

"This is a situation in which, not only did the candidate testify that his intent was not to abandon his Chicago residence, his acts fully support and confirm that intent," the ruling said. "The candidate told several friends that he intended to serve as chief of staff for no more than 18 months or two years before returning to Chicago."

The state Supreme Court overturned Monday's ruling by a panel of Illinois Appellate Court justices that Emanuel did not meet state provisions mandating that Chicago mayoral candidates live in the city for at least a year before the election.

The appellate court ruling had overturned a Chicago Board of Elections decision that found Emanuel had, in fact, met the requirements.

At issue in Monday's ruling was what the term "resided in" in the state provision means. Emanuel's lawyers argued that phrase should not be assigned the same meaning as "lived in." Instead, Emanuel's lawyers say, the fact that President Obama's former chief of staff has maintained a residence in the city for the past two years is enough to satisfy the requirement.

Emanuel, who said his family enjoys playing Scrabble, quipped Thursday, "I have banned the world 'resident.'"