Sullivan denies charges of signature fraud on primary petitions
Allegations that gubernatorial candidate Jesse Sullivan's petitions contain hundreds of fake signatures are untrue and a "political stunt" by McHenry County businessman and Republican rival Gary Rabine, a Sullivan spokesman said Wednesday.
The Rabine campaign filed an objection on March 21 to Sullivan's petitions with the Illinois Board of Elections contending they show "an utter and contemptuous disregard" for Election Code provisions.
"There is evidence of roundtabling ... when a group of circulators sit around a table falsely signing petitions in the name of voters to submit to election authorities," the objection states.
Also, numerous signatures on petitions handled by 12 specific individuals "appear to have been forged and written in the same hand," according to the objection.
Sullivan spokesman Noah Sheinbaum was confident the challenge will be thrown out on April 21 when the elections board considers it and nearly 140 objections to other candidates in the primary.
"Jesse Sullivan and (running mate) Kathleen Murphy will be on the ballot," Sheinbaum said. "This fishing expedition is nothing but a last-gasp political stunt from a floundering opponent's campaign."
Rabine's lieutenant governor running mate, Aaron Del Mar of Palatine, countered that "this is not personal. We don't dislike Jesse Sullivan or Kathleen Murphy. This is the process. This is not a political attack. It's usual and customary.
"If there's any potential for election fraud it should be brought to light and investigated on anybody -- Democrats, Republicans, Independents," Del Mar said.
Fireworks among the Republicans running for governor have been rare. Sullivan and Rabine along with Xenia Sen. Darren Bailey, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin and former Sen. Paul Schimpf of Monroe County have focused their attacks on Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker instead.
Objections have been filed against other gubernatorial hopefuls, including Republicans Emily Johnson of Wheaton, Max Solomon of Hazel Crest and Keisha Smith of Country Club Hills, plus Democrat Beverly Miles of Chicago.
Political experts think it's unlikely Sullivan, a venture capitalist from downstate Petersburg, would be knocked off the ballot but noted the allegations are serious ones.
"In my opinion, Rabine has a long way to go," said Pat Durante, former top aide to U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde and a veteran DuPage County GOP strategist. But "this is a very powerful challenge."
Sullivan is required to have no fewer than 3,250 signatures and turned in the maximum of 6,500, but some circulators demonstrated a "pattern of fraud" and therefore all their petition sheets should be invalidated, the objectors argue.
If the Rabine camp contested individual signatures that's a heavy lift, Durante said, "because not every signature he challenges will be invalid."
But "if indeed they can throw out as many petitions in full that they are contesting, that helps a lot. And if they can prove roundtabling, someone is going to jail. So it hinges on full petition sheets getting tossed out. It's a tough road to hoe, but maybe."