Lake County coroner's bid to run as independent challenged

Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd has no standing to run for re-election as an independent candidate, according to an objection filed with election officials.

Waukegan residents Michael P. Donnenwirth and Keith E. Turner allege in the complaint to the Lake County Electoral Board that Rudd is a declared and registered Democrat, and thus by law can't run as a candidate for another party or as independent in the same election cycle.

Donnenwirth and Rudd were to have been opponents in the March 15 primary, but Rudd withdrew from the race in December 2015 after his paperwork was challenged by two Republicans. Donnenwirth became the Democratic nominee for the coroner's office with 74,799 votes in the primary. Howard Cooper, the unopposed Republican candidate, received 66,319 votes.

Rudd, a first-term incumbent from Lake Forest, filed paperwork in late June to run as an independent for a second term. The objection was filed Tuesday with Lake County Clerk Carla Wyckoff, chairman of the three-member electoral board. A hearing on the complaint is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Monday in the 10th-floor Assembly Room of the county building, 18 N. County St., Waukegan.

According to the objection, a person who has filed a statement of candidacy for office as a member of an established political party can't file as a member of a different party or as an independent for a general election immediately after a general primary. Rudd withdrew his name as Democratic precinct committeeman and coroner but did not withdraw "sworn and certified declarations and statements" that he was affiliated with the Democratic Party for the 2016 election cycle, according to the objection.

Thus, the objection states, Rudd's independent candidacy is invalid and his name should not appear on the official ballot. Also, the pages of some of the petitions are not consecutively numbered, which is a violation of the election code, according to the objection.

"Once I made a statement of candidacy, I'm locked in for 12 months, that's what they're saying," Rudd said Thursday. He said case law did not address a candidate who withdraws from a race.

"A statement of candidacy is not an affidavit," he said. "We're going to obviously end up in court to decide it."


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