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Rahm Emanueul’s Chicago residency still open to debate

Rahm Emanuel right, testifies before the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners during a hearing challenging his residency to run as Mayor in Chicago, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Attorneys for former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel are focused on showing that he always planned to come back to Chicago after he finished working for President Barack Obama.

A Chicago Board of Election Commissioners hearing on residency challenges to Emanuel’s mayoral bid enters its third day Thursday with more witnesses expected to testify.

More than two dozen opponents say he doesn’t have a legal right to run because he lived for nearly two years in Washington.

Wednesday’s testimony wrapped up with a longtime friend of Emanuel’s talking about how long he planned to work for Obama, who was elected in 2008. Marj Halperin, a communications consultant, said Emanuel told her in June that the chief of staff job has “always been two years and out.”

Halperin said Emanuel made clear when he initially took the job that his move to Washington wasn’t permanent because he and his wife weren’t selling their Chicago home.

“He did not intend to stay and he was looking forward to moving back to his house,” she said.

Earlier Wednesday the hearing focused on the family items that Emanuel said he left behind in his basement when his family moved to Washington in the summer of 2009.

The woman renting Emanuel’s house testified that she had not seen treasured items Emanuel said were left in the basement.

But Mee Kim-Chavez, a friend of Emanuel’s wife, Amy Rule, told a hearing officer she helped pack up their family heirlooms and mementos so they could be stored in a basement crawlspace under a home addition they’d build. She recalled helping Rule store 20 to 30 boxes in the crawlspace.

“She was going to come back. There was no need for her to take them with her to D.C.,” Kim-Chavez said of the possessions.

Her testimony came after the woman renting Emanuel’s Chicago home told the panel she hadn’t come across most of the items Emanuel described leaving behind.

Lori Halpin told a hearing officer that she has never seen any of the 100 boxes or some of the other valuable family possessions that Emanuel has said were left behind, including in a locked area of the home’s basement.

Emanuel testified Tuesday about belongings in his home, including his wife’s wedding dress, clothes his children wore home from the hospital just after they were born, family china and others to defend himself against allegations that he forfeited his Chicago residency when he leased his home and moved to Washington.

But Halpin said she was unaware of any items like that being left in the house.

“I have never found anything locked in the house,” said Halpin, who moved into the house in August 2009.

She said the Emanuels did leave some items behind including a piano, their master bed, an old couch, TV and an old cassette player.

Halpin acknowledged there are two areas of the house she has not been able to access — an area behind a panel in the attic master bedroom and another behind a panel with hinges behind shelves in the basement.

Emanuel’s lawyers asked Halpin if it was possible that the Emanuel family possessions are located there.

“Anything could be possible, I have no idea,” she said.

Halpin and her husband Rob refused to move out of Emanuel’s house when he wanted to break their lease and move back in as he ran for mayor. Rob Halpin also filed paperwork to run for mayor but withdrew from the crowded field shortly after.

Emanuel is fighting for a spot on the Feb. 22 ballot to replace the retiring Mayor Richard Daley, who didn’t seek a seventh term.

More than two dozen people have challenged Emanuel’s candidacy papers saying he doesn’t meet the requirement that candidates live in the city for a full year before the election. He moved back to Chicago in October after working for nearly two years in Washington. His wife and their children will remain in Washington until the end of the school year.

Emanuel endured nearly 12 hours of questioning Tuesday from everyone from attorneys to a woman named Queen Sister. A Chicago Tribune/WGN poll released Tuesday night showed Emanuel with an early lead, though 30 percent of those polled were undecided.

After the testimony ends, the hearing officer will make a recommendation on whether Emanuel’s name should be on the ballot to the full Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Officials have said they need to settle on the list of candidates well before the Feb. 22 election.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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