They’re off and running. No, not the candidates for Chicago mayor. Their election attorneys.
Nov. 26 at 5 p.m. was the deadline for candidates to file signatures to get on the ballot for the Feb. 26 citywide election. For the office of mayor, candidates were required to submit 12,500 valid signatures. Many candidates doubled the required number for good measure. Why? The process is littered with cherry bombs. And skilled election attorneys know precisely how to knock someone off the ballot.
Those attorneys will spend the next few weeks examining and challenging the petitions of competitors, looking for mistakes. They’ll discuss strategy and resources and optics. They’ll assess strengths and weaknesses of opposing legal counsel. Even if a candidate files petition sheets loaded with errors, is it worth the effort to try to kick him or her off the ballot? Does anyone really want to go after businessman and philanthropist Willie Wilson, for example, who has helped hundreds of people pay their property taxes but whose petitions I’m told are problematic?
Should a mayoral hopeful challenge an opponent’s petitions to tie him or her up in court? Or skip the challenge process, buckle down and hope for good ballot position? The lottery for ballot positions is Dec. 5, and the candidates who filed first — Wilson, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and attorney Jerry Joyce — will be competing for the coveted No. 1 slot.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who decided not to seek a third term, knows this phase of the campaign intimately. Shortly after filing his signatures to run for mayor in November 2010 — two months after former Mayor Richard M. Daley dropped the bombshell he wouldn’t run for another term — a group of plaintiffs challenged his residency status. Emanuel had been living in Washington, D.C., working for then-President Barack Obama. Mayoral candidates are required to live in Chicago at least one year before the election.
Emanuel had moved his family to Washington, enrolled his kids in school there and rented his Ravenswood home to another family. During that time, Emanuel fell off Chicago voter rolls twice. At one point while voting absentee, Emanuel and his renter voted from the same Chicago address.
It was a little fishy, but when you have clout there’s plenty of deodorizer to go around.
A month before the election, an Illinois Appellate Court panel sided with the plaintiffs in an unexpected ruling. The panel agreed Emanuel did not, in fact, meet the residency requirement. But thanks to a quick reversal of the ruling from his friends on the Illinois Supreme Court, Emanuel was allowed to stay on the ballot. His defense, in part, rested on cardboard boxes of belongings he continued to store at his Ravenswood house, packed with his wife’s wedding dress, special children’s outfits, diplomas and books. Voila. Home sweet home.
Emanuel went on to win the six-way mayor’s race without a runoff. How Chicago.
That election, too, began with a pool of about 20 candidates but wound down to just six. Did you remember that the Rev. James Meeks, outgoing Democratic Sen. Roland Burris and even Emanuel’s disgruntled renter managed to collect signatures to get on the ballot at first? Me neither.
So before we get googly-eyed at the prospect of a hypercrowded field of mayoral candidates, let’s see who has staying power. This is the moment for the election lawyers — an exclusive club of behind-the-scenes players who know the election code and in some cases helped write it. They’ll shape the final ballot more than the candidates themselves. Like the character Data from the 1985 movie “The Goonies,” the lawyers are the ones with the gadgets. Especially the slick shoes to trip up the competition.
Kristen McQueary is a member of the Tribune Editorial Board.
02-Pol,01-All No Sub,19-Legal,26-Delivered
via Hoy – Hoy Chicago https://ift.tt/2SbkHbI
November 27, 2018 at 12:54PM