Mayor Rahm Emanuel dropped a couple jokes and met privately with donors for a few minutes at a Chinatown fundraiser that netted about $40,000 for a Cook County circuit judge.

Emanuel told supporters of Judge Laura Liu that he wasn't staying long Thursday night because he wanted to go see his family.

“I may just run over you on the way out, so don’t take it personal,” Emanuel said at the Phoenix Restaurant, shortly after privately greeting "gold" donors who gave $2,000 to Liu, an appointed judge running in the 8th judicial circuit to keep her spot on the bench.

Emanuel introduced the judge to the crowd, saying he was taking time away from home before a long holiday weekend because Liu is an outstanding public citizen who has all the values and “intellectual architecture” to make a great judge.

The mayor said only one other judge was getting such public support from him, and she was there Thursday night as well. Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis also shook hands in the room full of other judges and lawyers.

Emanuel knows both jurists and both have connections to the legal case over his Chicago residency that threatened to knock him off the ballot in the mayoral campaign. Theis was part of the unanimous high court decision that kept Emanuel on the ballot, and Liu is married to his lead lawyer in that legal scrum, Michael Kasper.

“By the way, I’ve done this besides her being married to Mike Kasper,” Emanuel joked to the crowd.

The Tribune reported Thursday that Emanuel was staking out new political territory by throwing his weight behind the pair.

Liu told the crowd her first contact with Emanuel was when he was still a congressman for the 5th District. She and Kasper reached out to his office when their efforts to adopt a girl from China, which are still ongoing, hit a snag.

Emanuel’s staff helped with a missed deadline, and Liu remembered seeing Emanuel a couple of months later in a store.

“He looked up and I introduced myself, and all I said was my name and that I appreciated his help, and he said, ‘How’s the adoption going?’” Liu told her supporters.

 That was the most special thing Emanuel had ever done for her, Liu said. “Until tonight.”

Liu's campaign reported the fundraiser brought in about $40,000, raising her total to roughly $255,000 so far for the 2012 election.