The Illinois Republican Party has decided not to slate a Republican candidate to face LaShawn Ford, the Democratic nominee for 8th District state representative, on Nov. 7, after the original Republican nominee died.

Ford, an Austin resident and businessman, was already considered the front-runner in the heavily Democratic district, which includes portions of Oak Park, Forest Park and Riverside.

Ford’s Republican challenger, Glenn Harris, died Sept. 3 of an apparent heart attack. Harris, a lifelong West Side resident and black Republican, was 47, and had previously challenged incumbent State Rep. Calvin Giles, who lost to Ford in the March 2006 primary.

A spokesperson for the Illinois House Republican Organization said last week that there were never any plans to replace Harris, and they didn’t anticipate this year’s race for the seat to be very competitive.

“It was not a high priority from our standpoint,” said David Dring, a spokesperson for the IHRO.

Steve Sturm, legal counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said in cases where a candidate, for whatever reason, is not able to remain on the ballot, the parties have 15 days prior to the election date to slot another candidate, which technically made this past Monday the last opportunity for Republicans to find an alternative for Nov. 7.

Sturm, though, said that in a place like Cook County where there are so many races, it would have been difficult for Republicans to come up with a choice by the deadline, especially with ballots printed well before that time.

“It’s just not realistic at this point,” Sturm said Monday, adding that Republican committeemen would have chosen Harris’ replacement if the party had decided to find an alternative candidate. The ’06 campaign saw a similar instance in the Cook County Board race. Incumbent President John Stroger suffered a stroke a week before the March 21 Primary.

Democratic committeemen selected Ald. Todd Stroger (8th Ward), John Stroger’s son, in July to replace his father on the November ballot. Stroger faces Cook County Commissioner and Republican challenger Tony Peraica on Nov. 7.

Ford, however, is not running unopposed in the 8th District race. He faces challenger Nathan Helsabeck of the Green Party.