The mayoral election follies begin with a few challenges | Bleader

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The mayoral election follies begin with a few challenges

Posted By on 12.17.14 at 04:00 PM

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Mayoral candidate Willie Wilson (wait, who?)
  • M. Spencer Green/AP Photos
  • Mayoral candidate Willie Wilson (wait, who?)
If you're a nihilist—and it's hard not to be one around here—these are your glory days as mayoral candidates attempt to throw each other off the ballot for violating this or that absurdly onerous and arbitrarily enforced election ballot access law.

So in the name of defending democracy, we dilute it.

Just so you know—nihilism's basically a philosophical belief that says life is meaningless, so fuck it. That's how Mayor Rahm might've put it, had he studied philosophy in college rather than ballet.

In this campaign, the mayor's using his deep political treasure chest to bounce some of his relatively obscure, neophytic mayoral challengers from the ballot. But before I pound away at Rahm—as much fun as that is—let me make one thing perfectly clear . . .

The mayor's not the only one playing the election-challenge game.

Ten candidates filed for the mayor's race. Five of those candidates have been challenged by forces loyal to Willie Wilson, speaking of obscure candidates that no one's ever heard of.

Wilson, in turn, has been challenged by forces linked to Mayor Rahm.

I should mention that Wilson is African-American, as are the five candidates he challenged. Including Amara Enyia, who stepped down, largely 'cause she didn't have the money to fight a legal battle to stay on the ballot.

Wilson's allies call it smart politics when they attempt to have their black opponents thrown off the ballot.

But they call it racism when Mayor Rahm tries to throw Wilson off the ballot.

Why are some ballot challenges smart politics while another is racism?

Good question. For an answer, ask Rickey Hendon—if you can find him. A former alderman and state senator, Hendon's apparently the chief political strategist behind Wilson's campaign.

For record, I'm a big fan of Hendon. At least, I contend that he did as much as anyone to advance the cause of same-sex marriage with his powerful oratory that exposed the hypocrisy of its opponents.

In this campaign, Hendon's helping Wilson, a political neophyte, who made a fortune in the medical supply business. Wilson's backers believe he's Mayor Rahm's greatest threat because he has enough money to air commercials.

On some level, Mayor Emanuel must agree. As the mayor's followers are trying to throw Wilson off the ballot for not having filed enough valid nominating signatures.

To which, Wilson's lawyer tells me—"we have more than enough good signatures."

That lawyer would be Frank Avila, who's been fighting powerful mayors for years.

In this fight, Avila's up against the formidable Mike Kasper, the election lawyer for the mayor and house speaker Michael Madigan.

As much as I like Avila, I'd have to say that Kasper's got the upper hand in this one. Not only is he a good lawyer, but his Rahm and Madigan connections give him something of a home-court advantage at the election board.

I mean, when Kasper walks into an election board hearing room, it's almost like Tom Jones coming on stage at Caesar's Palace—it's all the hearing officers can do to keep from throwing their hotel keys at him.

On the other hand, Avila's the king of the snappy one liners. Just the other day he held a press conference in a corridor at city hall where he challenged the mayor "to put on his tutu and come on down."

I think even the mayor had to laugh over that one.

To keep Wilson on the ballot, Avila's teamed with Andy Finko, a lawyer who generally represents Green Party candidates.

I know, it really can't get weirder.

Among other things, they're asking the hearing officer to force Mayor Rahm to testify. Let's hope they win on that point, for the entertainment value alone.

By the way, the hearing officer is Chris Cohen. Many decades ago—when disco was king—Cohen was the alderman of the 46th Ward. A fact that I am probably one of ten people who remembers.

For the record, I contend it's been downhill—in more ways than one—since disco died.

If it were up to me, all ten mayoral candidates would get to remain on the ballot. But, then, I'm still naïve enough to believe in democracy.

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