Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool submitted more than three times the required 25,000 petition signatures to get on the ballot as an independent candidate for assessor, saying he's confident that's plenty to withstand challenges by his opponent, Board of Review Commissioner Joseph Berrios.
"That's a lot of signatures," said an assistant to Cook County Clerk David Orr as Claypool wheeled in a stack of petitions a yard high on a dolly and stacked the documents on the counter. The Chicago Democrat beat Monday's 5 p.m. filing deadline by an hour and a half, setting the stage for expected challenges by Berrios, the Cook County Democratic chairman and assessor nominee who won the February primary.
"We're prepared for that fight," Claypool said, accusing Berrios "and his thugs" of using "machine tactics" to keep him off the ballot.
Berrios employs election-law attorney Thomas Jaconetty on his staff as chief deputy commissioner, and has also consulted on the Claypool challenge with Michael Kasper, House Speaker's Michael Madigan's top election lawyer, as well as Rich Means, who has often found himself arguing against those two before now.
"We will be reviewing Mr. Claypool's signatures to make sure they are valid and filed in accordance with the law," Berrios said in a statement.
The clerk's office has a bank of 50 computers, and they've been booked for the next week by Berrios backers to check signatures against voter-registration records.
The deadline for challenges to be filed is 5 p.m. June 29, followed by a public hearing by the Cook County Officers Electoral Board, which consists of Orr, State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown or their proxies.
Should Claypool survive Berrios' challenge, he will also face Republican candidate Sharon Strombeck-Eckersall, the former Evanston Township assessor, and Green Party candidate Robert Grota in the general election.
Berrios' attorneys have also discussed arguing in court that anyone who voted in the partisan primary election is ineligible to sign a petition for an independent, an argument Claypool called "bogus," saying, "The statutes are clear. Voters have a constitutional right to support other candidates and give themselves a choice in the November election." He added that his staff had been careful to have the petitions circulated by people who had not done so on behalf of party candidates in the primary.
Berrios also made an issue of how Claypool didn't vote in the February primary, calling it "simply irresponsible," although that would appear to give Claypool credentials to run as an independent as well.
Claypool, who announced last year he would not seek re-election as commissioner, says he backed Raymond Figueroa in the Democratic assessor's race, but decided to run after Figueroa lost to Berrios.
Should Claypool survive Berrios' challenge, they will also face Republican candidate Sharon Strombeck-Eckersall, the former Evanston Township assessor, and Green Party candidate Robert Grota in the general election.
Eugene Pincham is the only previous candidate to get on the Cook County ballot as an independent, having run unsuccessfully for County Board president in 1990.