Washington (CNN) - Rahm Emanuel appears to have cleared the final hurdle in his effort to become a legal candidate in the Chicago mayoral race.
Cook County Judge Mark Ballard ruled Tuesday there was sufficient evidence that the former top Obama aide meets the residency standards required to mount a bid. The judgment comes on the heels of a similar finding from the Board of Elections last month.
"The Board of Elections and the court have both now concluded what I have said all along – that the only reason I left town was to serve President Obama and that I always intended to return," Emanuel said in a statement. "Now that these decisions have been reached, Chicago voters should have the right to decide the election and to vote for me or against me. And they deserve to have the campaign focus on the challenges facing the city and the need for safe streets, strong schools, and stable city finances."
Local law in Chicago states that a candidate for mayor must have lived in the city for the year leading up to the election. Emanuel spent most of 2009 and this year serving as President Barack Obama's chief of staff in Washington, before stepping down in October and returning to Chicago to run for mayor.
Opponents claimed that Emanuel abandoned city residency by renting out his home during his tenure working in the Obama White House. Emanuel responded by pointing out that he pays property taxes in Chicago, votes in the city, and that his car is licensed in the city.
Those facts, he claimed, prove his intent to remain a resident.
Polls suggest Emanuel is far ahead of his rivals in the contest to succeed longtime Mayor Richard Daley.