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Rahm Emanuel moves from one political sphere to another

By Laurie Bennett

January 26, 2011 at 8:35am

Thomas Kilbride, chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, set a record for the state’s judicial campaigns last year, spending more than $3 million on his re-election bid. About half came from the state Democratic Party.

As The Atlantic points out, the Illinois court system is highly politicized. Justices of the state’s highest court are elected, not appointed, and they frequently bring long political histories to the bench.

This is the court to which Rahm Emanuel has taken his appeal of an appellate court’s decision knocking him off the ballot in his run for mayor of Chicago. The lower court ruled that he did not meet city residency requirements.

With four Democrats and three Republicans, the court already has strong connections to the race. Justice Anne Burke is married to Chicago Alderman Edward M. Burke, who is a prominent supporter of Emanuel’s biggest rival, Gery Chico.

Justice Charles E. Freeman, a former attorney for the state elections board, was a good friend of the late Mayor Harold Washington.

James Warren writes in The Atlantic that Freeman is “a longtime chum and product of the Democratic Party establishment” in Chicago - an establishment that views Emanuel as a threat.

The Associated Press notes that with less than a week before the first ballots are cast, the court is likely to rule quickly. The judges will review legal briefs but not hear oral arguments.

If the court does not return Emanuel to the ballot, he could launch a write-in campaign. He has until Feb. 15 to declare himself a write-in candidate.

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