Round one in petition challenges for mayoral, aldermanic races begins
By Erick Johnson
The gloves are on heavyweight mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle, who aims to deliver a knockout to several Black opponents, including Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown. The mayoral elections are just under two months away, but Preckwinkle and businessman Willie Wilson have come out swinging to eliminate opponents before the bell rings for city elections on February 26, 2019.
The challenge round has officially begun. Preckwinkle and other candidates filed objections that would require the Chicago Board of Elections to closely examine thousands of signatures their opponents obtained to get their names on the election ballot. The list of challenges is out and candidates have racked up a total of 195 objections for the city elections. Sixteen of those objections are in the race for mayor. Some 82 objections came from candidates in aldermanic races in the city’s predominately Black wards. Many objections in mayoral and aldermanic races have multiple objectors.
Most of the objections are from non-incumbent candidates seeking to prevent other non-incumbent candidates from getting on the ballots and taking votes they need to unseat Black incumbent aldermen. The 20th ward had the highest number of these objections with 17 challenges filed. The eight and 21st ward were tied for second with eight objections filed.
Not many non-incumbent candidates are challenging the signatures of incumbent Black aldermen in predominately Black wards. Only two of them, Brookins and Alderman Toni Foulkes drew objections from non-incumbent candidates who are willing to take them own. The rest of the Black incumbents are free of any challenges and have nothing to worry about.
In the mayoral race, 11 Black mayoral candidates vying to win the Black vote. Out of that number, seven drew challenges to have their petition signatures examined to see if they are valid or even forged. The challenge round for next year’s election is so intense that the Chicago Board of Elections added nine hours to the schedule for candidates to examine their opponents’ petition signatures.
It’s the reason why mayoral candidates obtain double or triple the amount of the required 12,500 signatures (candidates for alderman are required to submit 473 signatures). The more signatures, the higher the chances are for candidates to survive the challenge round.
With just 25,000 signatures each, political analysts say Brown and Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza are vulnerable to not making the ballot on election day.
In addition to Brown, Black mayoral candidates include educator Roger L. Washington, activist Ja’Mal Green, Conrien Hykes Clark, former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, businessman Neal Sales-Griffin and State Representative LaShawn Ford, all drew objections to their petitions.
They are being challenged by Preckwinkle and Wilson, both of whom need the Black vote for a chance to defeat a total of 21 mayoral contenders in the race.
Preckwinkle, whose 60,000 signatures did not draw any challenges, filed objections to challenge the petitions three Black candidates. They include Brown, Lightfoot and Clark. Brown and Lightfoot pose the biggest threat to Preckwinkle’s chances of winning the Black vote. Despite having 62,000 signatures another Black mayoral candidate, Amara Enia, did not draw any challenges from Preckwinkle or Wilson.
Many of the objectors in the mayoral and aldermanic races are not candidates themselves, but hired staff who do the dirty work while keeping candidates out of scrutiny.
As part of their campaigns, Preckwinkle and Brown are campaigning for votes in Chicago’s Black churches. Preckwinkle last month received an endorsement from a handful of Chicago’s Black clergy and Brown historically has been re-elected as Cook County Circuit Court Clerk with the large support of Black-church going voters.
Wilson’s campaign manager, former State Senator Rickey Hendon, filed challenges against Brown, as well as Ford, Green, Sales-Griffin and Roger Washington.
The objections prompted Washington to send out a tweet that said, “WHY CHALLENGE YOUR BROTHERS?”
Hendon told the Sun Times that he filed the challenges against Wilson’s wishes, because Wilson does not believe in removing opponents from the ballot.
But Green called a news conference after he took offense to Hendon’s string of objections and said he recorded Hendon threatening to knock off all the Black candidates.
“I’m not knocking off all the Blacks, just selective ones like Ja’Mal Green,” responded Hendon, who called Green a “rat snitch fink” for secretly recording their conversation.