CALUMET CITY | Mayoral hopeful Brian Wilson dropped out of the Feb. 26 Democratic primary election and instead is seeking the post as a political independent in the April 9 election.
That fact caused attorneys for supporters of both of Wilson's mayoral opponents to argue Friday before the city's Electoral Board that state law specifically prohibits such action.
Adam Lasker, attorney for candidate Victor Green, and James Nally, attorney for supporters of Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush, said Wilson made himself ineligible for any independent campaign in this year's election cycle when he filed paperwork to get on the Democratic primary ballot.
Nally compared Wilson's actions to a Chicago Bears player trying to switch teams mid-season to play for the Green Bay Packers. State law was specifically changed in 2012 to clarify that the move Wilson wants to make is not permitted, Lasker said.
"There are many ambiguities that exist in the statutes, but this isn't one of them," Lasker said, while describing his argument before the Electoral Board as a "standard law school approach."
Wilson's attorney, John Jawor, was dismissive of both counselors.
Of Nally, he said comparing an election cycle to a football game is "demeaning." Of Lasker, he said, "His law school approach, if I were his professor, I'd give him an F."
Jawor argued the restrictions against trying to run as an independent candidate after first trying in a partisan primary apply to the general elections for county, state and federal offices in even-numbered years.
He said they do not apply to the consolidated elections held in odd-numbered years for municipal elections.
"There is a difference between running for office with a political party and running as an independent," Jawor said.
Most south suburban communities only have a nonpartisan election for municipal offices and do not have primaries. Because Calumet City has both primary and general elections, Nally said it is comparable to the even-numbered year elections.
"The (new) law does apply, it bars this from taking place," Nally said of Wilson's campaign attempt.
The Electoral Board did not rule on the issue. Election law expert Burt Odelson, who is advising the board, said there are issues that need to be studied further. The board continued the hearing until Feb. 8 at City Hall, 204 Pulaski Road.
Wilson watched the legal battle silently, sitting in the City Hall chamber with his winter coat on while his political fate was being argued.
Candidates for other municipal offices who are aligned with Wilson already have filed their lawsuits to get reinstated on the ballot. They are scheduled for oral arguments Feb. 1 in Cook County Circuit Court.
Wilson said he expects his own case to wind up in Cook County Circuit Court as well.
"This (the Electoral Board action) is all going to get overturned," he said.