Fields narrow in West Side alderman races

Many objections still being processed ahead of Feb. 26 election

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By Igor Studenkov

Contributing Reporter

Chicago Board of Elections hearing officers worked through the weekend to process objections against more than a hundred candidates hoping to run in the February 26 municipal election.  

Although many of the objections against candidates running on the West Side still need to be processed, the fields have been narrowed.  

Two of the challenges against incumbent Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) have been dismissed, while his attorney, Pericles Abbasi, expects him to survive the third challenge with enough valid signatures to stay on the ballot. 

Meanwhile, the 24th Ward race is shaping up to have at least two candidates, as candidate Toriano Sanzone dropped his objection against incumbent Ald. Michael Scott (24th). Preliminary recommendations call for Sanzone to remain on the ballot. 

In the 37th ward, it appears that incumbent Ald. Emma Mitts will face at least one opponent, as Tara Stamps survived an objection against her. And in the 28th Ward, at least one of the candidates facing off against incumbent Ald. Jason Ervin is expected to remain on the ballot after a record exam revealed that candidate Miguel Bautista had more than enough valid signatures.

In the 29th Ward race, all candidates in the race — Taliaferro, Gyinga Washington, and activists Zerlina Smith and Dwayne Truss — had their nominating petitions challenged. Taliaferro and Truss were challenged by Yolanda Hoskins, while Taliaferro also faced challenges from Verlestel Branch and Anthony Harris, while Truss faced challenges from Samuel Lewing. Smith and Washington, meanwhile, are being challenged by Bruce Washington, president of 29th Ward Democratic Organization.

Branch's and Harris' challenges were thrown out after the Board of Elections ruled that they didn't live the within 29th ward. Hoskins' challenge is currently going through the records check phase. But on Jan. 3, Abbasi said he realized that even if every single signature she objected to is ruled invalid, Taliaferro would still have 480 signatures — enough to stay on the ballot.

Abbasi said he filed a motion to cancel the records check on these grounds, but as of Jan. 4, it wasn't clear whether his motion was granted. He said that, if his motion failed, the record check would begin on Jan. 7. 

Meanwhile, the board was scheduled to make the final decision on objections against Truss on Jan. 8 while Washington is still going through the hearing process.

As for Smith, the record check revealed that she had 530 valid signatures, more than the required minimum. But during the Jan. 4 hearing, Abbasi moved to proceed with other objections that have not been addressed by the record check and affidavits from Smith's campaign. Hearing officer Linda Crane wound up scheduling a follow-up hearing for Jan. 11, at 12 p.m. 

In the 24th Ward, Sanzone challenged Scott's nominating petitions, while he and other candidates — Creative Scott, Edward Ward, Larry Nelson, Patricia  Marshall and Traci "Treasure" Johnson — were challenged by Inglesa Toney.

According to the Dec. 29 report by hearing officer Christopher Argella,  Sanzone and Scott's attorneys determined that, even if all of Sanzone's challenges against the signatures on Scott's nominating petitions were successful, the incumbent alderman would still have enough signatures to stay on the ballot. Argella dismissed Sanzone's other objections. Sanzone decided to drop the challenge on Dec. 27. 

Meanwhile, according to the Dec. 26 report by Argella, who served as the hearing officer on this case as well, a record examination determined that Sanzone had 624 valid signatures, enough to stay on the ballot. On Dec. 20, Toney indicated that she would accept the results, leading Argella to recommend keeping Sanzone on the ballot. Sanzone did not respond to calls seeking comment. 

As for the remaining candidates, Ward has been removed from the ballot, while the objections against the remaining candidates are still making their way through the hearing process. 

In the 37th Ward, Stamps, who faced off against Mitts in 2015, is running again, as did Otis Percy and artist Deondre Rutues. All three faced objections from George McKinley, who is listed as 37th Ward Republican Committeeman and has a history of donating to Mitts' New 37th Ward Ward Democratic Organization.  

While Percy was thrown off the ballot, Stamps survived the challenge after the record examination revealed that she had 517 valid signatures, enough to stay on the ballot. The final decision on the objections against Rutues' petition is pending.

Finally, in the 28th ward, all candidates facing off against incumbent Jason Ervin — Justina Winfrey, Miguel Bautista, Jasmine Jackson, Beverly Miles and Theresa Rayford - faced objections from Gina Zuccaro and Emma Jean Robinson. Winfrey and Rayford withdrew their candidacies — though Winfrey has since announced on her Facebook page that he was mounting a write-in campaign. 

Jackson and Miles are still making their way through the hearing process, with the nearest hearing scheduled on Jan. 10 at 11 a.m. and Jan. 9 at 3 p.m., respectively. The board of elections is slated to make the final decision on objections against Bautista. He said that the record exam revealed that he had 311 more valid signatures that the required minimum, and that Zuccaro and Robinson declined to challenge the results, which means that he would remain on the ballot.

CONTACT: igorst3@hotmail.com    

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