Jean-Baptiste down, not out in 2nd ward

Stephanie Chen

Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) launched a comeback Monday as a write-in candidate after the Evanston Electoral Board ruled to remove his name from the ballot last week.

Jean-Baptiste and Fourth Ward candidate Ryan Garton will not appear on the April 5, 2005, aldermanic election ballot.

Electoral Board members Ald. Arthur Newman (1st) and City Clerk Mary Morris signed a motion Monday to uphold last week’s rulings striking Jean-Baptiste and Garton from the ballot. Jean-Baptiste was found in violation of election rules Friday because his petition for alderman did not specify the position for which he was running. Garton was removed from the ballot Thursday because he did not get the minimum number of signatures.

Refusing to sign both motions to remove the candidates, Mayor Lorraine H. Morton said she believes Jean-Baptiste’s supporters knew exactly what they were signing.

"I did what the citizens of Evanston would want me to do," Morton said. "I stood for what I believed in."

Although Jean-Baptiste has 10 days to appeal the board’s decision, he said he was unsure whether he would file an appeal.

Jean-Baptiste said the board should have followed the spirit, rather than the letter, of the law. But he hasn’t given up campaigning.

"This is not the last day, " Jean-Baptiste said. "This is just a decision of two people out of three. The constituents will make the decision on who is the next alderman."

After the Electoral Board meeting, Jean-Baptiste addressed almost two dozen supporters, friends and family members and expressed his determination to win another four years as Second Ward alderman.

He said the only difference for voters on election day is between punching a hole and writing his name.

"I expect you to stand with me and fight the good fight," he said.

Jean-Baptiste said a possible appeal will not conflict with his plan to run as a write-in candidate. He said he believed the petition complaints, filed by Second Ward resident Robert Nierodzik on Feb 1., were prompted by "personal gripes."

Nierodzik said his motivation to file a complaint was to personally attack Jean-Baptiste.

A lifelong Evanston resident, Nierodzik said he was not satisfied with Jean-Baptiste’s performance.

The board’s ruling will make it harder for Jean-Baptiste to win, said Nierodzik, who has served as a poll worker in Evanston.

Second Ward resident Sarah Ferrer was at the meeting to support Jean-Baptiste and said she is ready to help him win re-election.

She received several e-mails over the weekend from neighborhood groups who want to help with campaign. Ferrer said they plan to distribute cards with Jean-Baptiste’s name on them prior to and on election day so voters can correctly write his name on the ballot.

"We want to make sure people spell his name right," she said. "We don’t want votes to get thrown out on a technicality."

Jean-Baptiste will speak Feb. 20 at his first campaign event as a write-in candidate at the Evanston Northshore YWCA, 1215 Church St., at 3 p.m.

Reach Stephanie Chen at [email protected].