Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is no carpetbagger, and should be allowed on the ballot for mayor of Chicago.

An Illinois appeals court on Monday kicked Emanuel off the ballot, ruling he is ineligible because he hasn't lived in the city for the past year. Emanuel, who worked in Washington until last October, is appealing to the state's highest court.

Serving our national government in Washington shouldn't disqualify anyone from going back home to participate in public life there. Emanuel's situation isn't comparable to that of Washington TV journalist Chris Matthews, who considered buying a home in Pennsylvania to establish residency for a potential Senate bid in 2010.

Emanuel represented part of Chicago in the U.S. House for six years, before President Obama called on him to serve in the nation's capital in 2008. While living in Washington, he continued to pay property taxes on his home in Chicago, as well as paying income taxes back home. He kept his Illinois driver's license current.

Nor did Emanuel purchase a home in Washington, or vote there, or conduct his personal banking there. It's clear that Chicago is his permanent residence.

The mayoral election will be held on Feb. 22, but early voting begins on Monday. If the state Supreme Court does not put Emanuel back on the ballot, he could wage a write-in campaign. He would have to declare himself a write-in candidate by Feb. 15.

Emanuel is still campaigning, and is considered the favorite to replace Mayor Richard Daley. Among his opponents are former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and former Chicago school board president Gery Chico.

Illinois' Supreme Court should rule swiftly in Emanuel's favor. He shouldn't be penalized for serving our country.