Smith seeks to kick other mayor candidates off ballot

Evanston mayoral candidate Jeff Smith has filed challenges to the petitions submitted by the other four candidates in the mayor’s race, seeking to have them all kicked off the ballot.

The challenges, filed late Tuesday at the City Clerk’s office, claim the other candidates failed to file their petitions during the legally appropriate time period.

City Clerk Rodney Greene had declared that the appropriate filing period was from Dec. 12 to 19. But after one mayor candidate, 9th Ward Alderman Brian Miller, insisted that the correct filing period was from Nov. 21 to 28, Greene agreed to accept his petitions then, but also kept the December dates open as another filing period.

Fearful that if Miller’s argument about the correct dates prevailed they would be unable to get on the ballot, the other candidates for mayor — businessman Steve Hagerty, 6th Ward Alderman Mark Tendam, and former Township Supervisor Gary Gaspard — all rushed to file their petitions by Nov. 28 — as did the city clerk candidates and most candidates for alderman.

But Smith held back, waiting to file his papers in December.

The question of the appropriate filing period intersects with provisions in the state election code that call — under some circumstances — for holding a primary election in February, ahead of the general municipal election in April.

Evanston has not had a primary in recent years, but is now scheduled to have one because of the large field of candidates in the mayoral and 5th Ward aldermanic races.

Earlier this month a Miller supporter tried to boot Gaspard, Hagerty and Tendam from the ballot, claiming they hadn’t specified the correct dates for the election on their petitions.

The Miller backer ultimately withdrew the objection to Tendam’s petitions, and the city’s Electoral Board dismissed the challenges to Hagerty and Gaspard’s petitions, concluding there was no confusion about whether the candidates were running for mayor and that the confusion about the date of the election was immaterial to the issue of whether they were properly qualified to be on the ballot.

Smith has not responded to an email this morning from Evanston Now seeking more information about his decision to challenge his opponents right to appear on the ballot..

During a hearing on the earlier challenges Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, the chair of the electoral board, said the city has a long tradition of promoting access to the ballot.

A date for an Electoral Board hearing on Smith’s challenge has not yet been set.

Update 2:20 p.m.: In a news release issued this afternoon, Smith also argues that the city has been unable to produce an ordinance declaring that its elections are nonpartisan, and he claims that, without proof of the nonpartisan form of city elections, holding a primary for mayor is not appropriate under state law.

Evanston municipal elections in practice have been conducted without partisan labels for generations.

He further makes arguements about the details of the filings by the individual candidates that appear to be akin to, though not identical to, those the Electoral Board previously dismissed.

Update 4:25 p.m.: Mayoral candidate Steve Hagerty, responding to Smith’s action, said that he’s “100 percent confident” that the new challenge to the candidate petitions will be dismissed by the Electoral Board as the previous one was.

“I believe the Evanston voters themselves should have the choice to decide who they want to be their Mayor,” Hagerty added, “They should certainly not be limited to one candidate.”

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