CALUMET CITY | The early voting center maintained through Saturday at the Public Library, 660 Manistee Ave., has been one of the busiest in Cook County – even though there’s a chance that many of the ballots cast there during the past two weeks will turn out to be spoiled.
That is because it is not 100 percent certain the elections Tuesday for municipal offices such as mayor, clerk, treasurer and seven aldermanic seats will have any legitimate challengers.
If Calumet City's electoral board prevails, Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush will run unopposed for re-election to a fourth term, and all of her preferred candidates for other municipal offices will go unchallenged. Any votes cast for opposition candidates will be invalid.
An Illinois Appellate Court panel is still considering a request by sympathizers to Qualkinbush who want the electoral board to prevail over the pair of Cook County judges who overturned the board and restored a series of challengers to the incumbent administration.
Attorney Adam Lasker said the appeals court may issue a brief order Monday, then produce a detailed legal brief explaining their decision later in the week.
The uncertain candidates are mayoral hopeful Victor Green, two aldermanic candidates whose own legal battles were aligned with his, and a full slate of candidates aligned with mayoral hopeful Brian Wilson, which includes Rita Cortez for city clerk, Anthony Smith for treasurer, and Larry Caballero, Patricia Twymon, Wilbur “Will” Tillman, RaMonde Williams, DeJuan Gardner, Tyhani Hill and Reginald Whitley.
All have been campaigning in recent weeks trying to downplay their uncertain status.
Green – who is aligned with 6th Ward aldermanic hopeful Hope Allen and also is supportive of 4th Ward aldermanic hopeful Imani Akin - said the best way for him to cope is just to campaign – particularly since he believes the appellate panel will rule in the challengers’ favor.
“It really is a ‘Hail Mary’ play that Qualkinbush is trying to pull off,” Green said.
Tony Quiroz, who in 2005 ran a write-in campaign for mayor, said her desires to use the electoral board to create an unopposed election is not surprising.
“Michelle sees elections as a chance to deny the people of Calumet City a voice in who will govern them,” Quiroz said, who is endorsing Green for mayor.
But Qualkinbush denied any such motive, saying her involvement on the electoral board is required by state law, and that the board merely followed the requirements of the election code.
“If everybody would follow the rules (about nominating petitions), then there wouldn’t be any need for objections or appeals,” she said.
If Green prevails in remaining on the ballot, he will run against Qualkinbush for mayor. The winner will then take on Wilson – the 4th Ward alderman who wants to run as a political independent in the April 9 general election.
But Wilson’s own candidacy is being challenged. He was just recently knocked off the ballot for the April election – although he said his attorneys will file a challenge on Monday in Cook County Circuit Court to try to get reinstated.
Unlike Green, whose candidacy was challenged by Qualkinbush supporters, Wilson is being challenged both by Qualkinbush interests and by Green backers.
Wilson said he’s ready for an April campaign against Green.
“He has absolutely no record of service,” Wilson said of Green, who in 2009 ran an unsuccessful bid for city treasurer. “He has never been elected to anything or served on any committee or board, which is why they should vote for me.”
But Qualkinbush said she thinks people interested in service records and experience would be best off voting for her and other incumbent officials.
“We have about 60 years of accumulated experience that should not be just tossed away,” she said.