Council election petition contested

Breanne Gilpatrick

An Evanston resident on Tuesday challenged Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste’s (2nd) candidate petition for the April 5 municipal election.

The complaint was filed with the Evanston City Clerk’s Office by Robert Nierodzik and lists seven formal objections to the nominating forms Jean-Baptiste submitted Jan. 21 in his bid for re-election.

The objections contend that petition forms were incomplete, filled out improperly and exceeded the maximum number of signatures allowed. In the Second Ward, that limit was 97, and Jean-Baptiste’s petition had 111 signatures.

Another complaint said Jean-Baptiste did not specify the election in which he was running and that he stapled the forms rather than binding them book-style.

The city’s Electoral Board — made up of City Clerk Mary Morris, Mayor Lorraine H. Morton and retiring Ald. Gene Feldman (9th) — now will have to meet within the next week to review the objection form and Jean-Baptiste’s original filing documents, Morris said.

The last time an Evanston resident challenged a candidate’s filing petition was in 1991, Morris said. She said she didn’t know the results of that challenge, but she knew that the challenged candidate did not end up running.

Nierodzik also submitted copies of the petition to the Cook County Board of Elections and the Illinois State Board of Elections. Scott Burnham, a spokesman for the Cook County Clerk’s office, said all complaints are handled by local officials.

Nierodzik said he has known Jean-Baptiste since he was young, but he has not been satisfied with Jean-Baptiste’s performance as alderman.

“It is the aura of arrogance that he exudes to some of the ward that led me to take it upon myself to make sure he is not re-elected,” Nierodzik said.

Nierodzik said he spent a total of 30 hours going over state and city election laws and Jean-Baptiste’s nomination documents, as well as consulting with an election law lawyer. He is now awaiting the Electoral Board hearing.

Nierodzik said he wanted to stress that he was not acting on behalf of the other Second Ward candidate, Christopher Stewart.

“This is what I am doing as a constituent to make sure (Jean-Baptiste) is not re-elected,” he said.

Cathryn Crawford, Stewart’s campaign manager, said she was disappointed the complaint is the campaign’s inaugural event.

“It’s our hope that this will be dealt with quickly so we can move on to debating the issues that are important to the Second Ward,” Crawford said. “Mr. Stewart hopes to win the race on the issues, not on technicalities.”

Jean-Baptiste said he learned of the objection Wednesday morning. He said he does not think the objections are well-founded and now is waiting for the hearing.

“Part of the process is that any registered voter can object and has the right to do so,” Jean-Baptiste said.

Morton, the Electoral Board chairwoman, said she was out of the office Wednesday and had not yet seen the objection.

But she said the board is likely to review the complaint.

“It bears looking into to see whether the claim is valid or not,” Morton said.

Morton said this will be the first objection the board has reviewed since she was elected mayor in 1993.

Reach Breanne Gilpatrick at [email protected].