CHICAGO | A Cook County judge was not sympathetic to the pleas of mayoral hopeful Brian Wilson, ultimately refusing to overturn the decision of Calumet City's Electoral Board that removed him from the April 9 general election ballot.
Judge Maureen Ward Kirby did reject the claims that Wilson was ineligible to challenge Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush in this year's election cycle because he had debts to Calumet City government.
But she did accept claims submitted by supporters of Qualkinbush that Wilson was ineligible to run in the general election after he initially submitted a statement of candidacy to run in the Democratic primary in February.
Kirby cited changes in the state election code enacted last year that she says prevent Wilson from running in April, even though he voluntarily withdrew his candidacy from the Democratic primary.
"My reading (of the law) is that it is OK to run in different (election) cycles. But this is the same cycle," she said. "So (Wilson) can't switch."
Wilson's attorney, John Jawor, tried arguing the law only applied to the elections held in even-numbered years for federal, state and county government positions and not in the odd-numbered years for municipal posts; which in many communities are nonpartisan and there are no primaries.
Jawor became animated at several points during his legal argument, often waving his arms about and raising his voice, twice causing Kirby to warn him to calm down.
"I've been nice to you. Don't raise your voice to me," Kirby told Jawor at one point.
Much of the nearly hourlong hearing in Kirby's courtroom at the Daley Center consisted of Kirby and Jawor arguing legal points, with Calumet City attorney Burt Odelson standing silent, with a smile on his face and his hands clasping a railing while he watched.
Kirby also accepted the legal argument there were sufficient flaws in Wilson's nominating petitions. He gathered more than 4,000 signatures, and the Electoral Board considered 410 of them, determining that at most, Wilson had 242 valid signatures, which is less than the 257 signatures of support required by law to run for mayor in this year's election.
Qualkinbush supporters had argued that many of the people who had circulated Wilson nominating petitons were ineligible to do so because they had circulated petitions for other candidates in this year's election cycle.
Jawor said Thursday following the hearing that he plans to challenge Kirby's ruling in the Illinois appellate court. It is not known when such an appeal would be filed, or if it would be heard by the court.
Unless an appellate court does overturn Kirby, Thursday's decision means that Qualkinbush will run unopposed in the April 9 election after having defeated Victor Green for the Democratic nomination for mayor in February's primary.
Wilson said Thursday he now thinks he would have been better off fighting to keep his ballot position in that primary rather than shifting gears toward an independent candidacy.
"Hindsight is always 20/20," Wilson said, while adding he believes he should have been permitted on the ballot.
"I have 4,000 signatures from people who want me to run for mayor, yet these people (Qualkinbush, Odelson and attorney James Nally who represented the challengers to Wilson's ballot slot) have conspired to keep me off the ballot," he said.