State representative candidate Candance Chow faces legal scrutiny days before election


Source: Candance Chow

Candance Chow.

Keerti Gopal, Reporter

Days before the primary election, a Democratic candidate 17th district state representative, Candance Chow, is facing criticism from the Illinois Education Association and an investigation from the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board.

The two issues are separate, but both are occurring simultaneously and close to Tuesday’s election. The Illinois Education Association sent Chow’s campaign arm a cease and desist letter regarding a mailer for her campaign, and the school board is investigating emails sent by the Chow campaign to the work accounts of board employees.

The cease and desist letter was sent to Friends of Candance Chow by James Nally, a lawyer representing the education group, on March 9. Nally criticized a mailer sent by Chow’s campaign, supporting Chow’s candidacy in which a picture of Chow is printed alongside the IEA logo, noting that both oppose a Senate bill that would cut funding from public schools.

Nally goes on to demand the Chow campaign refrain from referencing the IEA in future campaign advertising, and that they destroy all existing campaign material that includes the IEA logo. Nally emphasizes that the IEA does not support Chow and instead has endorsed Mary Rita Luecke in the Democratic primary.

“The mailer conveys the false and misleading impression that the Illinois Education Association supports Candance Chow,” the letter says.

Chow said she acknowledges the IEA’s endorsement of Luecke’s campaign, and that her intention was not to imply IEA endorsement, but to point out that she shares the IEA’s position on this particular issue.

“As far as we can tell, there’s no legal ground because there was no mention of an endorsement,” Chow said. “It was simply a tactic by Mary Rita Luecke’s campaign just to draw some attention.”

Luecke’s campaign issued a news release Monday outlining the contents of the “cease and desist” letter and reiterating the IEA’s endorsement of her. Luecke said she hoped to clear up any confusion that might have been caused by the Chow mailer, but added that she feels the content of the school board investigation into Chow’s campaign emails is a more serious issue.

“I don’t know what will be found by the investigation of the emails but that is … a more serious problem, depending on the extent, because it is very similar to what is prohibited by … the federal government,” Luecke said.

District 65 board president Suni Kartha said the investigation was prompted by the discovery of emails from Chow and her campaign representatives to the work email addresses of district employees. Kartha said these emails were violations of board policy by a board member and added that the investigation has been turned over to the district’s attorneys.

The policy in question limits the political activity that board members and employees can engage in together in an attempt to decrease risk of coercion, Kartha said. She added that as the investigation unfolds, transparency between the board and the District 65 community will be a high priority.

“The board policy mirrors state law,” Kartha told The Daily. “Essentially, in this situation we have to be careful that there were no employees in the district that felt compelled to participate in any political activity, whether by another district employee or by a board member.”

Chow acknowledges that sending emails to employees’ work addresses was a mistake, and said that her campaign has taken steps to make sure a similar infraction does not occur in the future. She said she fully supports an internal review of the situation.

In the meantime, Chow said she is focusing on Tuesday’s election and getting her message out to voters, but added that she plans to stay actively involved in the board investigation.

“I don’t know how long (the investigation) process will take, but I am definitely going to be fully engaged in it,” Chow said. “I have been committed to integrity and full transparency while I was board president and all the time I’ve been on the board for the last six years, so I certainly want to support that.”

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