What a relief!  The city where the dead vote now says a man who lived in Washington was actually living in Chicago, at least in his heart.  The city’s Board of Election Commissioners ruled that Rahm Emanuel never intended to give up his residency status, even though he moved to DC for almost two years:

Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel can run for Chicago mayor although he spent much of the last two years living in Washington while working for President Barack Obama, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners ruled Thursday.

With the board’s decision, Emanuel clears a major hurdle in his bid to replace retiring Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Officials have tried to expedite mayoral ballot challenges before the Feb. 22 vote, and the board’s decision is almost sure to be challenged in the courts.

An election board hearing officer, who had presided over days of testimony in residency challenges to Emanuel’s candidacy, recommended early Thursday that Emanuel’s name be allowed on the ballot, saying evidence suggests that he had no intention of terminating his residency in Chicago, left the city only to work for Obama and often told friends he intended to live in Washington for no more than two years.

“Illinois law expressly protects the residential status and electoral rights of Illinois residents who are called to serve the national government,” hearing officer Joseph Morris , a Republican attorney in private practice in Chicago, wrote in his 35-page ruling.

That’s stretching the concept of national service a little far.  The likely intent of the Illinois law was to protect the residency status of people in the military, in elected office, or in the diplomatic corps whose jobs required them to travel.  Rahm took a dream job running the White House staff in Washington; he wasn’t representing the nation or his state, but himself.

CBS is correct that this will get challenged in the courts, but in the meantime, Rahm can set up shop and campaign in earnest.  He’s already running TV ads in the market and has more than 30% support in the polls.  Thanks to his national name recognition plus his own time in Congress, Rahm’s easily the front runner to replace Richard Daley and run the Chicago Machine.

As far as a court challenge goes, don’t expect much.  The state courts will probably show a great deal of deference to the board’s decision as a matter of course.  If they reverse it, it might be the biggest surprise in a Chicago court since the Black Sox confessions mysteriously disappeared in the middle of the trial in 1920.