Was 2013 the 'nastiest campaign' in Calumet City?

2013-04-13T22:00:00Z Was 2013 the 'nastiest campaign' in Calumet City?Gregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
April 13, 2013 10:00 pm  • 

CALUMET CITY | Election day has come and gone, yet the hostilities continue to linger — even though officials are saying it is time for differences to be put aside for the public good.

Third Ward Alderman Thaddeus Jones went so far as to call this year’s election cycle, “the nastiest campaign we have ever been a part of.”

Soon-to-be former 4th Ward Alderman Brian Wilson found irony in such comments. His mayoral campaign against incumbent Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush was knocked off the ballot by an electoral board headed by Jones.

“Thaddeus is a part of it, because his electoral board handed down so many erroneous decisions,” Wilson said. “For him to say this, it’s like the pot calling the kettle black.”

Officially, this year’s election cycle saw Qualkinbush defeat Victor Green for the Democratic nomination in the Feb. 26 primary, then run unopposed in Tuesday’s general election that had a 14.92 percent voter turnout. All of the other candidates for municipal office also ran unopposed. Two aldermen faced unsuccessful write-in challenges.

But the politicking centered on the city’s electoral board, which removed from the ballot any challenge to an incumbent city official. Those challengers had to rely on lengthy battles in the Cook County courts to get reinstated.

There were multiple allegations of candidates owing debts to city government, or having nominating petitions whose notarization did not comply word-for-word with the form the electoral board chose to impose. Various Cook County judges ultimately found those allegations to be invalid.

“The Calumet City board failed to recognize so many legal standards,” said Adam Lasker, an attorney who represented Green’s interests. “The courts were able to restore those candidates, but the cost in time and money is absurd.”

It was a separate issue concerning the ability to shift one’s candidacy from a primary fight to an independent candidacy in the general election that ultimately forced Wilson off the ballot, not any of the issues that the electoral board used against him.

Wilson said he believes he would have won if he had been able to get either the Illinois Appellate or Supreme courts to reinstate him to the municipal ballot.

Of Qualkinbush’s victory, Wilson said, “She got away with one.”

Wilson often said during the election cycle he should be mayor because Qualkinbush, a white woman, was out of touch with a city that now has a 72 percent African-American population.

Qualkinbush was not available to discuss her campaign. But during the election cycle, she was critical of Wilson’s attempts to interject race into the mix.

“He’s trying to stir up resentment, but I think the voters will focus on real issues,” she said then.

For Jones, such comments during a campaign cycle are not surprising.

“I don’t think there’s ever going to be a case where a candidate will engage in completely civil discourse.”

He also said he hopes people who spent the campaign cycle criticizing city government will now put aside their differences and try to work with elected officials for the good of Calumet City.

“I hope they will get involved and try to give something back to our city, rather than just keep going around making sarcastic comments about us,” Jones said.

The idea of political peace motivated local resident Sharon Carney to appear Thursday before the City Council. She used the public comment portion of the meeting to urge city officials to put aside their campaign cycle hostilities.

“We all know who won, the catfight needs to stop,” she said, adding she is afraid the hostilities will spill over into actual governance.

“I don’t pay my taxes to hear trash talk,” she said. “I want to hear the issues.”

Lasker said he views the electoral process in Calumet City as a mixed message. Even though challengers had to endure a legal ordeal that should have been avoided, “at the same time, the voters have spoken. They voted for the incumbents, who now have to govern.”

But it was evident prior to Thursday’s City Council session that some hostilities remain.

Take 6th Ward Alderman Nick Manousopoulos, who made a point of asking council meeting spectator Hope Allen, “Did you get done counting your 17 votes?” referring to the lack of support her aldermanic campaign against him received in the primary election.

Following a sarcastic exchange between the two, Manousopoulos said, “That (stuff) is over. We’ve got to move on.”

 “I agree,” Allen replied.

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