By DOUG IBENDAHL • August 9, 2010
No one was happier than I when Republican Cedra Crenshaw recently won her court fight and the right to appear on the ballot as the GOP candidate for State Senate in the 43rd District. Cedra’s now officially facing incumbent Democrat Arthur Wilhelmi in what has already become an exciting race. If any Republican can take that seat this year, it’s Cedra Crenshaw.
The Democrats’ attempt to keep Crenshaw off the ballot was wrong. It was doubly wrong for the incumbent Wilhelmi to pretend (at least for awhile) that he had nothing to do with the objection filed against Crenshaw’s petitions.
Fortunately that one turned out for the best – eventually – after much time, frustration, and expense.
You were probably already aware of the good news story regarding Cedra Crenshaw. You’ve likely heard all about how evil the “Democrat Machine” was for attempting to deny ballot access to a bright political newcomer. That’s all true.
But what you probably don’t know is that the Republican Machine is putting the Democrat Machine to shame right now in terms of petition challenges filed.
The Illinois Republican Party is behind 11 petition challenges right now, all of which are in litigation at the State Board of Elections. The Democrats and the Green Party are pikers in comparison.
You can see the entire list of cases in process HERE. That’s the agenda from the State Board of Elections meeting on July 6th – the initial hearing on all objections made to petitions filed by New Party and Independent candidates.
Wherever you see the name “Heffernan” and/or “Nekic” on that agenda – that is in fact a petition challenge being made by the Illinois Republican Party. Heffernan and Nekic are just two persons recruited by the Illinois Republican Party to be the “official” objectors. It’s the same phony game the Chicago Democrats play. It’s all a cynical charade that insults everyone’s intelligence. But any hope GOP Chair Pat Brady and others may have had to hide the State Party’s involvement has long since evaporated. Even the Illinois Republican Party’s lawyers make no attempt to deny the identity of the true objector in interest at this point.
And note that those 11 challenges include a lot more than 11 candidates. The Illinois Republican Party is currently attempting to keep the entire Constitution Party slate and the entire Libertarian Party slate off the ballot. Each of those counts as one case only – even though each party’s statewide slate has 7 candidates.
So think about that for a moment. We already knew that Pat Brady is against the idea of Republicans voting in their own Illinois Republican Party. Brady still opposes passage of SB600. But now Pat Brady is heading the effort to keep Constitutionalists and Libertarians from having a vote too – for ALL of their candidates.
Oh well, at least Pat Brady is consistent in his opposition to the right to vote – mostly consistent anyway. He still expects you to vote for duds like his pal Mark Kirk of course.
In addition to Brady’s attack on the Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party, he’s also got the Illinois Republican Party going after several other individuals who are seeking a spot on the November ballot as Independent candidates for statewide office. One of these is Will Boyd, a very impressive – and mostly conservative – African-American professor from downstate Greenville. Boyd filed over 25,000 signatures as an Independent candidate for U.S. Senate.
How do I know so much about this topic? Because I’m the lawyer representing the Constitution Party and its candidates in their defense of the petition challenge. I’m very proud to be doing so. I think what my Illinois Republican Party is doing right now is entirely wrong, on several levels.
First off, I think a little healthy competition would make the “established” parties better. Further, maybe if our Illinois Republican Party would clean-up its act and stop doing self-destructive things like constantly rigging party conventions and intra-party votes, maybe there would be less to fear from new entrants to the political marketplace.
I can also see as clearly as anyone that our GOP has at least two candidates on the statewide ballot who aren’t even Republicans in any sense of the word. I’m talking about Mark Kirk and Judy Baar Topinka. At a minimum, I personally want another choice when it comes to those two.
Finally, I’m representing the Constitution Party in this because quite frankly I’ve always liked the underdog. Randy Stufflebeam is the Constitution Party’s candidate for U.S. Senate and I’ve gotten to know him extremely well this past month or so. Randy is a good man and one of the most honest I’ve met. They say once a Marine always a Marine and no one exemplifies that idea better than Randy Stufflebeam. In fact all of the folks I’ve met on the Constitution Party side are truly decent, God-fearing people. They don’t deserve the disrespectful treatment they are getting from Pat Brady and a handful of his Republican pals.
The pooh-bahs of the Illinois GOP see things differently of course. They want to strangle-off the competition so we Republican saps have no place else to go. They hope that if the ballot’s cleared we’ll have to hold our nose and vote for their boy Mark Kirk and others. Maybe some will, but I won’t – no matter what. I will not vote for any candidate who has lied to us like Mark Kirk has so many times.
So where do things stand? Well during the last week of July the State Board of Elections conducted their records examination of the Constitution Party’s petitions at the Board’s Springfield headquarters. (Last week the same was done on the Libertarian Party’s petitions.)
Observers from both the objector’s side and the candidates’ side were in attendance to watch the Board’s staff rule on objections. In the case of the objector, this meant mostly the State GOP’s paid staff served as observers. And I also met one nice older gentleman who announced he was there from Bill Brady’s campaign.
Needless to say, there has yet to be a sighting of either Mr. Heffernan or Mr. Nekic.
It took the State Board of Elections four days and about 15 computers working simultaneously to get through the 32,998 signatures filed by the Constitution Party and the 14,542 objections that had been filed by the true objector, the Illinois Republican Party.
Of the total objections made, the Board’s staff rejected 6,561 of those objections as bogus on their face. That’s an incredible number of baseless claims to make. And keep in mind, that’s even before the opportunity given to the Constitution Party to prove that other signatures rejected by Board staff at the records examination were in fact valid.
After accounting for all objections sustained and overruled, the Constitution Party finished the records examination with 25,017 valid signatures. That’s 17 over the minimum of 25,000 required. (New Parties and Independents have a minimum signature requirement 5 times that of “established” party candidates running statewide. It’s all about incumbent protection.)
Unfortunately, despite the very good news that came out of the records examination, the Constitution Party slate isn’t out of the woods yet. Other objections have yet to be litigated. And when you throw nearly 15,000 objections at the wall, you’re bound to have some stick, no matter how poorly prepared the objections might be.
This week for example a nice woman who circulated petitions for the Constitution Party slate has to answer a subpoena and be deposed by the Illinois Republican Party’s lawyers. This is all because the Illinois Republican Party hired a private detective who harvested Social Security numbers for petition circulators and then tried to dig up dirt. In the case of the Constitution Party, the only thing the Illinois GOP’s private detective could apparently come up with was some suggestion that some other person in America reportedly has used the Social Security number belonging to this one particular woman who circulated petitions. I’m completely at a loss to understand how an innocent petition circulator is going to help the Illinois Republican Party try to make sense of a report it received from a private detective it hired, but such is life in Illinois.
I’ll keep you posted. And in the meantime, if you’ve been donating money to the Illinois Republican Party, there’s at least one private detective out there who thanks you. And at least Chairman Pat Brady can say he’s responsible for creating one job – using money gullible contributors no doubt thought was going to things like getting-out-the-vote.
Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.