CHICAGO (AP) - A longtime Chicago election attorney joined the effort Friday to push mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel off the February ballot over his residency status, even as Emanuel's supporters say the challenges are a frivolous distraction.
Attorney Burt Odelson filed a petition claiming Emanuel can't run for mayor because he hasn't lived in Chicago for the year leading up to the election, as the law requires. Nine similar petitions were filed Friday and five were filed earlier in the week.
"Go to Webster's dictionary, look up resident, and tell me that's Rahm," Odelson said. "The law is really quite simple."
Emanuel moved out of his North Side home to Washington two years ago to serve as President Barack Obama's chief of staff, and his supporters insist his relocation always was intended to be temporary.
"Rahm should not be punished for responding to the call of our president," U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky told reporters on a conference call organized by the Emanuel campaign. "Everyone knows that he had every intention of coming home."
"I just think the whole notion of this is frivolous," she said.
Emanuel wasn't on the conference call. He's in Los Angeles until Sunday to celebrate Thanksgiving with his brothers, according to campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. He said the brothers rotate who hosts the holiday.
Odelson filed the petitions on behalf of Walter Maksym Jr., an attorney, and Thomas McMahon, a former Chicago police officer. Odelson said he isn't involved with the five other petitions that were filed Wednesday.
Those petitions, which are identical, are part of a grass-roots effort to expose a pattern of what petitioners consider voter fraud and residency hijinks by politicians, said South Side resident Paul McKinley. He said a coalition of organizations drew up the petition and is trying to get 1,000 residents to file with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
"It's bigger than just Rahm," McKinley said. "The Democratic machine in the city of Chicago has routinely looked over these kind of criminal and voter fraud activities."
Emanuel has rented his Chicago house to Rob Halpin, who renewed the lease until 2011 just days before Mayor Richard Daley announced his retirement. Emanuel has attempted to persuade Halpin to move, but Halpin refuses and is, in fact, running for mayor himself. Emanuel is renting an apartment.
Richard Prendergast, a lawyer who's volunteering with the Emanuel campaign, said he's confident Emanuel will beat the residency challenges.
"The issue is not one that should be given too much consideration," he said.
The deadline to file challenge petitions is Tuesday. The election commission could begin assigning petitions for hearings early next month.