CHICAGO | Calumet City mayoral hopeful Brian Wilson is trying to figure out his options as an Illinois Appellate Court panel Wednesday upheld a Cook County judge’s decision that removed him from the ballot for Tuesday’s municipal elections.
Wilson’s attorney, John Jawor, said he is prepared to take the case to the Illinois Supreme Court. But a write-in campaign against Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush would be out of the question at this point, county election officials said.
Jawor said such a bid is still legally possible, even though the Cook County clerk’s office requires write-in candidates to file a notice of intent and their deadline for such notices for Tuesday’s elections was April 2.
But county clerk spokeswoman Courtney Greve said Wednesday that state law specifically requires notices for write-in candidates to be filed at least seven days prior to the election, meaning that the clerk's office will not be able to accept any notice filed by the Wilson campaign.
"He could have filed something (Tuesday) in anticipation of running as a write-in, but it's too late now," she said. "He will not be a write-in candidate in the election."
The appellate court had a three-judge panel issue a ruling in Wilson’s appeal, which sought to have overturned the ruling by Cook County Judge Maureen Ward Kirby. That ruling upheld the Calumet City electoral board decision booting Wilson from the ballot.
The appellate court did not issue a written brief explaining their ruling, but Jawor and James Nally, an attorney for interests that wanted Wilson off the ballot, both said they were told the court would issue such an explanation in coming weeks although likely after election day.
Nally was pleased with the ruling.
“Of course, we believe it’s the right decision,” he said. “It means that Mr. Wilson will not be able to appear on the ballot in the April 9 election.”
Ballots used at early voting centers had Wilson’s name printed on them. But any votes for Wilson will not be counted unless another court were to order him reinstated.
Qualkinbush, in a prepared statement, said the appeals court’s ruling was not a surprise.
“Throughout the entire process, we were always confident that the Calumet City electoral board was correct in removing Mr. Wilson from the ballot and that Mr. Wilson would not be restored to the ballot,” she said. “There are certain laws and procedures you have to follow to run for office, and Mr. Wilson simply did not follow those rules.”
But Jawor was upset with the ruling, which he said was one worthy of the courts in “Stalin Communist Russia.”
When Kirby ruled against Wilson last month, she supported the Electoral Board, which stated Wilson is ineligible to run in the Tuesday election because he first filed a statement of candidacy to run for the Democratic nomination for mayor in the February primary. He eventually withdrew to try a general election bid.
Jawor repeated his belief that changes in state law made last year only prohibit candidates for federal, state and county offices from making such a switch, and the law does not apply to the consolidated elections held in odd-numbered years for municipal office.
“I expected a win” from the appellate court, Jawor said. “If the law was meant to apply to consolidated elections, the (Illinois General Assembly) should go back and change it, but we shouldn’t be penalized for that now.”
As for Wilson’s options, the reason the appellate court issued a ruling without explanation is because election day is Tuesday.
Which means that any appeal to the Supreme Court of Illinois would have to be rushed, if that option is taken.
“Theoretically, there is enough time for us to appeal and for them to rule,” Jawor said, although he admitted he’d likely have to file his request by Thursday and also would have to get some sort of stay from the state’s high court to ensure that Wilson votes would still be counted, even if an actual ruling did not come until after election day.
Wilson could not be immediately reached for comment.