Reversing a recent electoral board decision, a Lake County judge on Tuesday said Charles Amrich can run for mayor in Island Lake.
Amrich exchanged hugs and handshakes with supporters and members of his campaign team after Judge Christopher Starck announced the veteran politician should be allowed to challenge incumbent Debbie Herrmann in the April 9 election.
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"It's a good decision," Amrich said afterward in the Waukegan courtroom. "Win or lose ... it's all about choice and the democratic process."
Anish Parikh, the lawyer representing the two local activists who'd formally objected to Amrich's candidacy, said he plans to appeal.
The appellate court could take weeks or longer to issue an opinion. Parikh, whose clients are Daniel Field and Louis Sharp, said he'll ask the court to rush the case because the election is less than a month away.
Neither Field nor Sharp were in court Tuesday.
Amrich, the town's mayor from 1985 to 2005, sat quietly in the gallery as lawyers debated the case law. Supporters and some members of the For the People slate sat nearby.
Village trustees Shannon Fox and Thea Morris, who were part of the three-member electoral board that twice knocked Amrich off the ballot, also were present. It was their ruling Starck overturned Tuesday.
In a hearing last week, the electoral board voted 2-1 against Amrich's candidacy. Morris and Fox voted to remove him from the ballot, while Trustee Laurie Rabattini supported his bid.
The board ruled Amrich wasn't an eligible candidate because the eight-day window to fill a vacancy on the For the People slate -- an opening created when the board first ruled him ineligible in February -- had closed. The board also ruled last week that a key date was missing from Amrich's new paperwork.
Starck rejected both opinions.
Whereas the electoral board said the clock to refile began ticking Feb. 4, when it first knocked Amrich off the ballot, Starck said the window didn't actually open until Feb. 19. That was the date a different Lake County judge denied Amrich's appeal of that first decision.
Starck also said Amrich's paperwork was filled out properly.
The electoral board had ruled the form didn't include the date he was selected by the rest of the slate to fill the mayoral vacancy. Starck, however, said the date of the meeting at which that decision was made is clearly specified.
After the ruling, Amrich's attorney John Fogarty said the opposition's arguments "didn't stand up."
Morris, who led the electoral board last week, disagreed with Starck's interpretation but said she's hopeful "the village can move past this and get to the business of the village."
The electoral board does not intend to appeal, attorney Keri-Lyn Krafthefer said. However, if Field and Sharp appeal the ruling, the board is a party in the case and would reiterate its position, Krafthefer said.
Mark Beeson, a trustee candidate running with Amrich, called the judge's decision "long overdue."
"I'm very happy that the residents will have a choice in April and that we can have a full slate," Beeson said in a telephone interview.
Herrmann, who leads the United for Progress slate, said her election strategy won't change now that Amrich's back in the race. She said she doesn't feel threatened by his resurgent candidacy.