The Democratic Primary for the 7th Congressional District seat is shaping up to be a face-off between incumbent U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis and Anthony Clark, Oak Park and River Forest High School teacher and community activist.
On Jan. 22, a hearing officer overruled a series of objections filed by Davis surrogates, Ricky Hendon and Cherita Logan, against Clark’s nomination papers and recommended that Clark’s name appear on the ballot for the March 20 Democratic Primary election.
A three-person Cook County electoral board was scheduled to make a final decision on the matter last week. Board members typically take up the hearing officer’s recommendations.
A third candidate in the race, Ahmed Salim — a regulatory compliance officer who lives in Chicago — was knocked off of the ballot after a hearing officer sustained objections made by Hendon and Logan that claimed that Salim didn’t have enough valid petition signatures.
During an interview on Jan. 22, Clark said he was relieved with the hearing officer’s decision but conceded he’s approaching the last leg of the primary handicapped somewhat after having to stave off what he described as the Davis team’s frivolous and undemocratic objections.
Hendon, a well-known Chicago political operative and former state lawmaker, and Logan, Davis’ district director, claimed that Clark’s campaign had obtained fake signatures and that Clark and his mother, Blanche, had engaged in fraud by claiming to have circulated petition sheets that were actually circulated by other people.
During the challenge process, which lasted roughly a month, Clark said, he had to round up people who had been subpoenaed to appear at hearings to testify to the validity of their signatures, and on Clark’s and his mother’s behalf.
After uncounted hours of labor and roughly $12,000 in legal fees, Clark said, his campaign was able to show that they had enough valid signatures for Clark to appear on the ballot. According to election documents, Clark showed that 1,841 of the 2,750 signatures he filed were valid — 485 greater than the 1,356 signatures needed to stay in the race.
“The time I spent fighting this challenge I could have been campaigning, going door-to-door, talking with community members,” Clark said. “The objection process is too often manipulated and used by incumbents and people in power to maintain that power and to fight back against up-and-comers they feel threatened by.”
Clark also claimed that the Davis campaign has engaged in intimidation tactics, such as the time when someone claiming to be the congressman called Clark’s home urging him to drop out of the race.
He added that there have also been “fake Facebook accounts created by people posting under my campaign posts. … It’s essentially cyber-bullying. I’m not a victim and I’m not fazed by this, but really?”
When reached by phone for comment on Monday evening, a Davis spokesperson said the congressman was in Washington D.C. working to end the shutdown of the federal government.
“It’s been disheartening to see how the machine operates, to the point where the public has essentially accepted it, saying this is just the way they operate,” Clark said. “This shouldn’t be how they operate.”