On Dec. 12, two panels of Evanston’s Local Election Board heard objections to the nominating petitions of three candidates for Mayor and one candidate for City Clerk. The Election Board is scheduled to reconvene on Dec. 16, and issue a decision on three, and possibly all four, candidates at that time. 

One Election Board panel, composed of Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, Alderman Ann Rainey (8th Ward), and City Clerk Rodney Greene, is hearing the objections to nominating petitions for Mayor. A second panel, composed of Mayor Tisdahl, Ald. Rainey, and Alderman Melissa Wynne  (3rd Ward) is hearing the objections to the nominating petitions for City Clerk.

Mayor Tisdahl, the Chair of both panels, said the panels will follow applicable laws. She added, though, “I note that Evanston has a long tradition of recognizing and promoting election access. The City traditionally believes in voter access and believes in candidate access to the ballot. … We will continue to recognize Evanston’s core value that promotes ballot access.”

Objections to the Mayoral Candidates

Evanston resident William Arndt filed objections to the nominating petitions filed by three people seeking to run for Mayor: Mark Tendam, Gary Gaspard, and Steve Hagerty. The objections to each of the nominating petitions is that the Statement of Candidacy in the petitions allegedly fails to specify that the candidates are seeking to run in the Feb. 28, 2017, Consolidated Primary.

Some issues are whether the nominating petitions must say the candidate is seeking to be on the ballot in the Feb. 28, 2017 Primary Election, or whether it is proper or adequate to say they are seeking to be on the ballot in the Consolidated Election on April 4, 2017 or on the ballot for the primary, but mistakenly say the primary would be on April 4. 

If more than four people run for Mayor, there seems to be a consensus that a primary must be held and the two top candidates move on to the general election. A November 1992 referendum raises the spectre that a primary may be  required if more than two candidates are running for Mayor. See RoundTable editorial on page 6.

Ald. Tendam said his petitions ask that he be put on the ballot as a candidate for Mayor “at the Consolidated Primary election to be held on February 28, 2017, provided if no primary election is required, the candidate’s name will appear on the Consolidated Election for election to said office and term.”

James Nally, the attorney for Steve Hagerty, said there is only a necessity for a primary if more than four candidates are seeking the office of Mayor, and the only certain election is the April 4 election. He said Mr. Hagerty’s nominating petitions are correct, because he is seeking election in the April 4 election.

Mr. Nally continued that Mr. Hagerty’s Statement of Candidacy states he is a candidate in the April 4 election, unless a Primary Election, by operation of law is Primary Election, by operation of law is required for Feb. 28, and then he would be a candidate in that election.

Arguments were not held on Mr. Gaspard’s nominating petitions. He said he did not receive advance notice of the hearing, and he came immediately after he learned the hearing was underway. Mr. Gaspard’s petitions say he is seeking to be placed on the ballot as a candidate for Mayor at the Primary election to be held on April 4, 2017, and if no primary is required, that his name appear on the ballot in the general election.

The panel set a schedule allowing the parties to follow briefs supporting their positions, and the panel is scheduled to rule on the objections to Mr. Tendam’s and Mr. Hagerty’s petitions on Dec. 15. The panel will decide next steps for Mr. Gaspard’s petitions.

Candidate for City Clerk

Lynne Y. Greene, the wife of Rodney Greene who is a candidate for City Clerk, filed an objection to the nominating petitions filed by Devon Reid to place him on the ballot for City Clerk.

The attorney for Ms. Greene argued that Mr. Reid failed to file with the City Clerk a “receipt” showing the Mr. Reid filed a Statement of Economic Interest with the County Clerk within the time required. The attorney said Mr. Reid chose to file his nominating petitions in the Nov. 21-28 time period, and he was required to file the receipt with the City Clerk no later than Nov. 28. He said the failure to do so is “fatally deficient” and required that he be kept off the ballot.

Mr. Reid said he filed a Statement of Economic Interest with the County Clerk on Nov. 25, and that he filed the Receipt on Dec. 7. He argued he was in “substantial compliance” with the requirements of the Election Code. He also argued that the City Clerk stated on his webpage, “I will be accepting all documents filed with me for both the November and December filing periods. So if you have not filed now you still have time to file in December – the 19th will be your last day of filing.” He said he “detrimentally relied on the misinformation of the current City Clerk and therefore should not be denied ballot rights.”

Mr. Reid also claimed that Ms. Greene’s objections were improperly filed. He said the Objections were filed on a Sunday, Dec. 4, at 5:10 p.m., a time during which the Clerks’ Office is closed. He questioned where the filing was made and who accepted it.

The Election Board set a schedule for each side to file supporting papers and set the case for Dec. 15 at 11:30 a.m.

Toward the end of the hearing, Mr. Reid referred to proposed legislation introduced by Senator Daniel Biss that would change the way people are selected for local Election Boards. Mr. Reid said politicians should not be the people who decide who can be on the ballot.

On Dec. 12, Carlis Sutton filed nominating petitions to run for Alderman of the Fifth Ward. Several other people have announced that they plan to run for Mayor or alderman. Time will tell if challenges are filed with respect to these petitions.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...