Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Will a “vote” for Rahm count?

With all likelihood, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners is going to tell us Thursday whether or not they think any of the challenges filed against the mayoral candidacy of Rahm Emanuel have any legitimacy.
EMANUEL: Not close to over

Not that the date means all that much. It merely means that after this week, we will be able to see this issue shift to the court system and work its way up through the legal structure. This could get settled by the Illinois Supreme Court in Springfield.

YET WHAT I fully expect to happen is a situation by which someone decides that Emanuel ought to be included on the ballot with all the other mayoral candidates, and elections officials in the city use that as the basis for deciding that the ballots should be printed up with Rahm’s name included.

So no matter how the court battle turns out, I expect that when people walk into the voting booth on Feb. 22, they are going to see the name “Rahm Emanuel” listed with all the others who survive the challenges.

The trick will be whether or not “Emanuel” is a valid choice for voters. Will putting a mark next to Emanuel’s name be the equivalent of spoiling a ballot, or will it be counted as a legitimate vote?

Yes, there have been many elections in the past where someone’s name was listed on the ballot solely because the ruling knocking them off didn’t come until after it was too late to change the physical form.

WHICH MEANS THAT anyone who thinks these challenges have to wrap up soon because of ballot-printing deadlines is being naïve. This legal fight can literally stretch right up to the days before Election Day.

In fact, a part of me wonders if that is the real strategy by Emanuel opponents. Force Rahm to divert all his attention and campaign cash to paying for the attorneys engaged in the legal fight, and they can keep him from being a serious candidate who might be able to focus on issues relevant to voters.

It is all-too-real a scenario in this particular election cycle.

So for those of you who think that the report hearing officer Joe Morris will file on Tuesday making his recommendation about Emanuel’s fate is “the light” at the end of the tunnel, and that this particular fight is almost over, it’s not.

THE LIGHT” IS from a GOP-oriented freight train headed straight for us, prepared to barrel over anyone who dares to try to get in its way.

CHICO: Seeking attention
This ride (meant more to embarrass the candidate and soften him up for a challenge in an April 5 runoff election) is going to run its course. We’re likely to have to hear these same charges over and over throughout the court system, with the critics hoping that somewhere, a sympathetic judicial ear can be found who will take the charges seriously enough to rule in their favor against Emanuel.

This search for a sympathetic judge will also continue to dominate the campaign season. I’m sure his critics (who mostly are just critics of Democrats being involved in federal policy) are going to be disgusted to hear this idea, but their actions have had the result of turning the entire mayoral campaign into “All Rahm, All the Time.”

With the whole process deteriorating into a question over whether or not Emanuel belongs, other candidates are going to be extra-challenged to get any attention for themselves.

HENCE, FORMER CHICAGO board of education President Gery Chico was resorting to praising Congress for voting to repeal the laws that maintained restrictions against gay people serving in the military, all in hopes that someone might pay attention long enough to catch his name and remember it on Election Day.

It also is the big reason (I am convinced) that former Sen. Roland Burris decided NOT to run for Chicago mayor, after all.

BURRIS: Riding off into the sunset
His backers filed the nominating petitions to get him a slot on the ballot, only to have Roland himself announce late last week that he wasn’t going to proceed with an actual campaign.

It is too bad. Roland’s egomania always has a knack of making a political campaign for any public post more interesting. Burris’ presence in the mayoral election could have caused a moment or two of intrigue in what will otherwise be the Rahm Emanuel election cycle.

YET FOR BURRIS, I’m sure the fact that he would not be the focus of all campaign attention (not even in his own mind) was enough to make the mayoral campaign not worth his time.

It’s not like Roland had a huge stash of campaign cash that could have paid the cost of making him competitive. Those days are long gone (Roland hasn’t run a real campaign since his unsuccessful 1994 bid for the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor).

Burris will now be able to have his cemetery memorial amended to include the fact that he was a U.S. senator from Illinois, before he goes into retirement.

And when the day comes that Burris (now 73) departs this physical existence for whatever exists after life, perhaps the winner of the Feb. 22/April 5 elections will be among the people who show up among his mourners.


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