CALUMET CITY | Members of the city’s Electoral Board spent the bulk of the day Friday reviewing the intricacies of what notary publics do and how they do it in relation to nominating petitions.
Those intricacies ultimately were the basis by which they justified removing a slate of candidates aligned with Brian Wilson, a mayoral candidate who also was taken off the Democratic primary ballot for Feb. 26.
The degree to which Electoral Board members — who at various points during the process included Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush, City Clerk Nyota Figgs, and aldermen Magdalena “Leni” Wosczynski and Thaddeus Jones — went to enforce the law was open to interpretation.
John Jawor, the attorney hired to represent Wilson and his slate, at one point called the Electoral Board “hypocritical” and said it was engaging in “extremely zealous advocacy” on behalf of incumbent city government officials to eliminate primary election opponents.
But Burt Odelson, the city attorney who was advising the Electoral Board and also is a nationally recognized authority on election laws, insisted the board was acting within “the letter of the law.”
“I take offense at (people) saying they know what the Electoral Board is going to do,” Odelson said. “This board rejected some of the objections filed against candidates. They’re being fair.”
But in the end, city clerk candidate Rita Cortez, city treasurer candidate Anthony Smith, and aldermanic candidates Larry Caballero (1st Ward), Patricia Twymon (2nd Ward), Wilbur “Will” Tillman (3rd Ward), RaMonde Williams (4th Ward), DeJaun Gardner (5th Ward), Tyhani Hill (6th Ward) and Reginald Whitley (7th Ward) were all removed from the ballot.
The Electoral Board ruled in favor of those candidates on certain points.
The board found that Caballero and Twymon had sufficient valid signatures of support, while Tillman was not engaging in fraud by trying to use his nickname “Will” on the ballot rather than Wilbur.
The board also rejected the claim that Williams was in violation of the federal Hatch Act. Williams is a deputy with Cook County Sheriff’s Office, and a challenge to his candidacy claimed he violated laws against federal employees engaging in political activity because the county sheriff receives some federal funding.
However, the Electoral Board accepted the arguments made against all members of the slate that their nominating petitions were not properly notarized.
Attorney James Nally — who represented Qualkinbush campaign interests before the Electoral Board — cited provisions of the law that say notaries must personally know the individual whose documents they are providing legitimacy to.
He said there is very specific language that must be contained in the documents, and that such language was not exact in the documents provided by the Wilson slate of candidates.
The Electoral Board also reviewed, but did not rule on, a claim filed against Williams that said even though he has lived in his Hoxie Avenue home for years, he has not lived at the address within the 4th Ward long enough to qualify. Earlier this year, the city ward map was redrawn and Williams’ home was shifted to the 4th Ward from the 2nd Ward.
The board also said some petitions were not properly dated as to when they were compiled.
Jawor said that claim was, “bogus, B-O-G-U-S.”
Nally said, “It’s not bogus, the state says it must be dated.”
The removal of the candidates Friday — if upheld by challenges in the circuit and appellate courts — goes a long way toward clearing the Feb. 26 Democratic ballot for Qualkinbush and her slate of candidates to run unopposed. A few other candidates remain, and their challenges will be dealt with at hearings Dec. 28 and Jan. 4.
Jawor, who previously had said he expected all his candidates to be removed by the Electoral Board, said he thinks this is bad.
“Regular people can’t afford $30,000 to file a legal challenge in the courts,” he said. “With actions like (those of the Electoral Board), we’re on our way to becoming a society of plutocrats.
“Only the wealthy can serve in politics,” Jawor said.
Nally disagreed, saying he thinks the candidates had flawed nominating petitions that did not comply with election law.
“I think only those who are able to read the statutes (on election law) are able to run for office,” he said.