Voters will have only one box to check for village president this spring.
On Friday, incumbent Mayor Michael Collins won his fight to stay on the April 9 ballot — but his challenger, Michael Lambert, wasn’t as fortunate.
Despite the support of electoral board chairman Paul Fay, Lambert lost his bid to stay on the ballot after Plainfield resident Jeffrey Schmitt filed an objection claiming Lambert didn’t have enough valid signatures on his nominating petitions.
At a Friday morning hearing, Plainfield resident John Ledvina — who hopes to run as a write-in Republican candidate for the mayor’s seat — was unsuccessful at ousting Collins from the ballot.
In a petition filed Jan. 3, Ledvina maintained that the form used by Collins when he filed his nominating papers is flawed and does not comply with the Illinois election code. According to Ledvina, the statement of candidacy is missing language affirming that the candidate is “personally known to” the person who certified the form.
Attorney Kathleen Konicki represented Ledvina, arguing that “the law is quite clear” in specifying that the language must be present.
The form, which was part of the 2013 Candidate Guide made available by the Will County Clerk’s office and the State Board of Elections, “is flawed, and it’s being challenged,” Konicki said.
Collins pointed out that the same form has been used by virtually every local candidate since 2007 — including Konicki, who served as a Will County Board member for 16 years.
“The form will work fine for you until it is challenged,” Konicki acknowledged. “I guess I was fortunate, as you have been fortunate in your prior runs for office, that it hasn’t been challenged.”
In the end, an electoral board made up of trustees Paul Fay (chairman) and Jim Racich and village clerk Michelle Gibas, sided with Collins, who pointed out that Illinois statute states that nominating petitions must be submitted “substantially” as the code stipulates.
“I think that I have, as well as every other candidate that’s filed for office since 2007, has done what Springfield wants us to do,” Collins said. “ … Is this document substantially what the legislature wants? Yes, it is.”
“I am of the opinion that Michael Collins has demonstrated substantial compliance with the law,” he said. “I think if Illinois was more concerned with stating that ‘this person is known to me,’ they would have included it on the form.”
Ledvina said he was disappointed in the board’s decision, adding that he believes his objection had merit.
“I don’t think it’s a loophole,” he said of the rule stipulating that the statement of candidacy must include the “personally known to me” language. He noted that a similar case in Calument City ended with a candidate being removed from the ballot — but that decision is being appealed.
Ledvina said he filed Dec. 21, 2012, to potentially run as a Republican write-in candidate for village president.
The deadline to file nominating petitions to appear on the ballot was Dec. 26, but Ledvina said it was important to him to run as a Republican. That won’t happen unless local Republicans hold a primary to nominate candidates.
“I’m a proud Republican and I want people to know,” he said, adding that currently, the Republicans have no plans to hold a primary. “I think I threw them for a loop with my filing.”
Lambert off the ballot
Meanwhile, the electoral board voted 2-1 to sustain Schmitt’s objections against Lambert.
Represented by Joliet attorney Richard Kavanagh, Schmitt successfully argued that Lambert didn’t have the required 104 valid signatures, citing various reasons, including the fact that some individuals who signed were not registered voters at the address they listed, and that others either printed instead of signed their names or did not sign their own names.
“There are almost 30 signatures that we feel are not valid,” Kavanagh said, offering documents from the Will County Clerk’s office showing that those who signed were either not registered voters, or that their official signature did not match the printed signatures on the petition form. Others who signed the forms did not list their correct addresses, he said.
For his part, Lambert offered affidavits from many of those who signed his petitions in which they attested to being registered voters or noted their correct addresses. He also argued that in the digital age, a name doesn’t need to be signed, or written in cursive, to be valid.
“There’s a lot of different marks and signatures that pass for someone’s legal entity,” he said.
Lambert said he was willing to strike several signatures for which he was unable to obtain affidavits, but said that still left him with 105 valid signatures.
Fay voiced his support for Lambert, but fellow electoral board members Gibas and Racich did not agree.
“I know Mr. Lambert has the greatest of intentions,” Racich said, but added he did not believe the affidavits could not make up for some of the inconsistencies, such as the incorrect addresses.
Gibas said that even if she were to agree that the printed names are valid, “what I can’t look past is the ‘not registered at address shown.’”
“I was disappointed in Mr. Fay’s response,” Schmitt said following Friday’s hearing, but noted that he was not surprised that the electoral board ultimately sided with him.
According to Schmitt, who said he doesn’t know Lambert, he didn’t file his objections out of malice.
“It’s nothing personal,” he said.
“I would hope that Mr. Schmitt would get involved in the actual process rather than trying to discourage people from getting involved,” Lambert said.
This is the second time Schmitt has objected to a village candidate’s nominating petitions. In 2009, he was successful in getting village trustee candidate Jesse Maggitt removed from the ballot.
A second challenge by Schmitt against trustee candidate Michael Guinta was taken off Friday's agenda after Guinta dropped out of the race.
READ: CANDIDATE WITHDRAWS FROM PLAINFIELD VILLAGE BOARD RACE