Evanston mayoral candidate Steve Hagerty this afternoon took the unusual step of repudiating the endorsement of a group that had announced it’s backing him.

The endorsement came from a newly formed political action committee called A Better Evanston.

The group’s statement of organization, filed with state Board of Elections on March 10, says it’s an independent committee formed to “educate the voters of Evanston.”

The state filing indicates the group’s chairman is Jonathan “Blair” Garber and the treasurer is Barbara A. Parker, who both list their address as 1200 Lee St. in Evanston.

Blair Garber, speaking at a City Council meeting in June 2013.

Garber is the Evanston Township Republican Committeeman, the state GOP Central Committeeman for the 9th Congressional District and chairman of the Illinois State Lottery Control Board.

In 2008 he was one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the National Rifle Association seeking to overturn Evanston’s ban on handgun possession, which led to a loosening of the city’s restrictions.

In 2013 he spoke at City Council to oppose an ordinance the Council adopted imposing new restrictions on assault weapons.

Hagerty, in his statement, said, “I know nothing about this organization. I have never met nor communicated with any of the people involved. I am a Democrat, and I actively campaigned against Trump in the election through canvassing both in Evanston and in Iowa.”

A Better Evanston, in its state filing, indicated that it is also supporting Devon Reid for city clerk and opposing Judy Fiske while supporting Lee Cabot in the 1st Ward aldermanic race.

The scope of the group’s spending can’t be determined from state filings so far. It listed no money available when it was formed March 10.

However some online ads place by the group, apparently placed through national ad networks, have been seen advocating its position in the 1st Ward race.

Fiske today complained that the group is running “attack ads, which are very un-Evanston.”

No word yet from Cabot or Reid about whether they want to distance themselves from the group.

An email message to Garber and Parker did not get an immediate response this afternoon.

Update 2:50 p.m. 3/25/17: Lee Cabot has issued a statement distancing herself from the A Better Evanston group:

“The endorsement I received from A Better Evanston was a complete surprise. Neither I nor our campaign have any connection to this organization or the people involved. I did not ask for their endorsement, and with no understanding of why I have received it, I cannot accept it.

“I recognize that its chairman previously sued the City of Evanston, an action I firmly reject, especially when it was to fight gun safety legislation. Nor do I align with the Republican Party as he does.

“As for A Better Evanston and its supporters and contributors, I assume they do so for the purpose stated on the website: that it is involved to ‘encourage smart development that increases revenue available for city use without putting more pressure on home property tax rates. We’re doing this to benefit our schools, important civic programs and keep the city on pace for smart growth.’

“These goals I support and have spoken on often. It is easy to find things that divide us. Let’s focus on where we agree and on our larger calling to solve the very real issues facing Evanston.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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