‘We are going to fight this’: Republican leaders slating legislative candidates despite new ban

Suburban Republican Party leaders are slating candidates for state legislative races that didn’t draw primary contenders despite a new law designed to prevent such aspirants from being considered by voters.

“We are going to fight this, but we shouldn’t have to,” Keith Brin, chairman of the Lake County Republican Party, said in an email Thursday. “The Democrats are using the levers of power to cancel people, shut down meaningful debate and opposing views, and destroy democracy.”

The filings are being encouraged by the Illinois State Board of Elections, which has said it will accept petitions from slated candidates by a previously set June 3 deadline. The board then will consider any challenges to those petitions filed by June 10 — again, as scheduled.

The elections board — comprised of four Democrats and four Republicans — will hold hearings to consider any objections, as usual. Those likely would be held July 9, board spokesman Matt Dietrich said.

“Assuming there are objections filed, I would expect whichever side is on the losing end to then seek judicial review in court,” Dietrich said in an email.

The legislation, fast-tracked last week by both the state House and state Senate and quickly signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, bars political parties from appointing a candidate to a legislative general election race if no candidate from that party ran for the seat in the primary election. The move protects candidates who won primary races, who often are incumbents.

The law is effective for the Nov. 5 general election. It only affects races for seats in the General Assembly and doesn’t prohibit post-primary slating for partisan federal, county or township races.

Most of the General Assembly candidates who don’t have opponents in November are Democrats.

Of the nine state Senate candidates currently not facing opponents, eight are Democrats, including incumbent Mary Edly-Allen of Libertyville in the 31st District. Republican leaders have selected Benton Township Trustee Ashley Jensen to run against Edly-Allen, and Jensen is circulating petitions for the necessary signatures despite the new law, Brin said.

Brin criticized Democratic legislators for changing the law in the middle of an election.

“They don't care about democracy,” Brin said. “They care about keeping power.”

Democratic state Sen. Mary Edly-Allen of Grayslake

Edly-Allen defended her vote for the legislation in an email Thursday, saying it simply moves up a filing deadline and gives the county clerks who oversee elections more time to prepare ballots. Edly-Allen also said requiring general-election candidates to first compete in primaries “gives voters a chance to really get to know who is running.”

Of the 54 House candidates without opponents in November, 36 are Democrats and 18 are Republicans.

No Republican ran in the primary for the 57th House District seat held by Tracy Katz Muhl of Northbrook, so the GOP tapped fellow Northbrook resident Daniel Behr to run. Behr filed his candidate petitions minutes after Pritzker signed the bill, however, so the validity of his candidacy isn’t clear.

In Facebook posts this week, Behr criticized Katz Muhl and other Democrats for voting for legislation that could prevent him from appearing on the ballot.

Daniel Behr, Republican candidate for 57th District state House seat Courtesy of Daniel Behr

“For all the Democrats' claims that they want more transparency and free and fair elections, they passed a law intended to deceive the voters of Illinois and to prevent contested elections for the state legislature on November,” Behr wrote.

Kane County Republican Chair Andro Lerario said his organization is slating at least one candidate — Elgin’s Don Puckett in state House District 43, where Elgin Democrat Anna Moeller is the incumbent — ahead of the general election. Two additional appointments to the ballot are possible, Lerario said.

“We will continue to slate our candidates until someone tells us not to,” he said.

The state elections board is scheduled to finalize the statewide ballot Aug. 23.

· Daily Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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