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Rahm Emanuel's mayoral bid encounters opposition in a Chicago kind of way

November 12, 2010 |  6:12 am

Former Barack Obama White House chief staff Rahm Emanuel peeks around the corner there

Here's a revealing little political tale out of Chicago's fabled politics to mark the week's end. It's from one of the best big-city newspaper reporters in the country, John Kass of the Chicago Tribune.

The story concerns Rahm Emanuel, who many will remember as the delightfully departed, foul-mouthed chief of staff for the country's highest-ranking Chicago pol, Barack Obama.

Not coincidentally, Rahm left the White House just before this fall's midterm ...

... election train wreck that produced the worst congressional slaughter since 1938, in this case of the Democrats. Many of the casualties were newer members who fell for Rep. Emanuel's recruiting pitch in 2005-06 with promises of longtime support.

The ostensible reason for Emanuel's D.C. departure was to run for mayor of Chicago, which in Chicago politics is the bigs, where you get to play after serving time in the minor leagues of the nation's capital.Rahm Emanuel Tenant Rob Halpin 11-10

This won't likely be a February coronation for RE, as the entrenched machine has tribal chieftains who might want to challenge Rahm, make trouble or at least threaten to, in order to wring some lucrative concession.

Remember Rod Blagojevich?

He bequeathed his city congressional district to Emanuel to move up to the governor's office. There, among other things, Blagojevich torpedoed a multi-million-dollar landfill project driven by an uncooperative Chicago alderman, who also happened to be his father-in-law? Nothing personal, just business.

There is a slight problem for Emanuel's impending political reign over that bare-knuckled city. Chicago has a law stipulating that anyone who is mayor must have been a city resident for the previous calendar year, as in 365 days.

And with Emanuel frequently photographed peeking around corners in the White House until this fall, full-time Chicago residency for 12 months before next Feb. 22 is somewhat difficult to prove.

But it's only a law. And this is Chicago. So there won't be a problem in the end.

What's so Chicago politics is that when he decided to blow back into the Windy City, Emanuel asked the tenant in his leased North Side house to leave. And the tenant, Rob Halpin, said, "Uh, No!"

He has a regular lease and knows that a wannabe mayor wouldn't want to be seen trying to evict a legal tenant. Sure, Rob could find his garbage uncollected now and then and numerous parking tickets on his car. But that's life in the city that works for some.

Now, thanks to Kass, we have the story of some Emanuel opponents, ostensibly Republicans, although no one has checked their NRA cards. According to the cigar-smoking Halpin, he was approached with a mischievous proposal that's hard to refuse if you're into fun Chicago-style: That he run for Chicago mayor against his landlord.

So Halpin talks with Kass about what he says he's considering and Kass writes one of his compelling newspaper yarns. The delicious full version is right here.

Halpin doesn't have a political prayer, of course. But the story keeps the whole Emanuel residency issue uncomfortably in front of voters, like someone strewing a few nails beneath Emanuel's car in one of those residential back alleys that honeycomb the toddling town.

With the long, gray winter imminent and the Bears likely to break fans' hearts again by New Year's, Rob versus Rahm makes for good political entertainment for a little while.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Associated Press (Emanuel in the White House); Michael Tercha / Chicago Tribune (Halpin).