An Illinois appellate court Monday threw former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel off the ballot for Chicago mayor because he didn't live in the city in the year before the election.
The decision cast doubt over Emanuel's candidacy just a month before the election. He had been considered the front-runner and had raised more money than any other candidate.
The court voted, 2-1, to overturn a lower-court ruling that would have kept his name on the Feb. 22 ballot.
Emanuel's lawyers quickly sought help from the Illinois Supreme Court, asking the justices to stop the appellate ruling and to hear an appeal as soon as possible. But time was running short, since the Chicago Board of Elections planned to begin printing ballots without Emanuel's name within days.
Early voting is to begin Jan. 31.
"I have no doubt that we will in the end prevail at this effort. This is just one turn in the road," Emanuel said, adding that the "people of the city of Chicago deserve the right to make the decision on who they want to be their next mayor."
Those challenging Emanuel's candidacy have argued that the Democrat does not meet the one-year residency requirement because he rented out his Chicago home and moved his family to Washington to work for President Obama for nearly two years.
Emanuel has said he always intended to return to Chicago and was living in Washington at the request of the president.
The former chief of staff is one of several candidates vying to replace Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who did not seek a seventh term. Emanuel moved back to Chicago in October after he quit working for Obama to campaign full time.
Before Monday's ruling, attorney Burt Odelson, who represents two voters objecting to Emanuel's candidacy, had little luck trying to keep Emanuel off the ballot.
The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners and a Cook County judge have both ruled in favor of Emanuel, a former congressman, saying he didn't abandon his Chicago residency when he went to work at the White House.
Odelson had said he planned to take the challenge to the State Supreme Court, if necessary.
"Have I stood down at all? No, I've been confident all along because that's the law," he said.
The three main other candidates running -- former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, former Schools President Gery Chico and City Clerk Miguel del Valle -- have been calling Emanuel an outsider who doesn't know Chicago.
Emanuel appeared to have gotten a big boost last week when his campaign announced that he has raised more than $10 million and was endorsed by former President Bill Clinton during an event in Chicago.