Write-in candidates crowd Evanston elections


Courtesy of Shelley Ann Carrillo

Shelley Ann Carrillo with her original candidacy paperwork for 8th ward alderman in November 2020. Carrillo was removed from the ballot following objections to her candidacy and subsequently began a write-in campaign.

Charlotte Varnes, Assistant Copy Editor

For the ten write-in candidates who filed to run for municipal office in Evanston this winter, many are approaching their runs with tempered optimism. 

The candidates join an already-crowded field of 26 traditional candidates and forced primaries in the 4th and 8th wards as well as the city clerk’s race. 

Write-in candidates were required to file a Declaration of Intent to be a write-in candidate by Dec. 24, 2020. However, in order to qualify they were not required to petition and receive a certain number of signatures, unlike traditional candidates.

Every write-in candidate for city clerk — and some aldermanic write-in candidates — originally planned on running a traditional campaign, but then withdrew.

Misty Witenberg, a write-in candidate for city clerk, said she initially petitioned to be on the ballot, but “reluctantly dropped out” because she did not want to split a vote with the two candidates who were already on the ballot, former Ald. Jane Grover (7th) and Stephanie Mendoza. Witenberg decided to file as a write-in candidate when Grover was removed from the ballot, which left Mendoza as the only candidate and meant Witenberg no longer had to worry about splitting a vote.

Shelley Ann Carrillo said withdrawing from the ballot was not her choice. A write-in candidate for 8th Ward alderman, Carrillo was removed from the ballot when an objection was filed claiming she did not properly inform voters of her chosen ward. She chose to run a write-in campaign following her removal, she said.

“It was frustrating and discouraging to go through that process,” Carrillo said. “It fueled my motivation to work even harder and champion for the people.”

Because her name is not on the ballot like a traditional candidate, Witenberg said she anticipates name recognition will be the “largest obstacle” to gaining traction in the election. 

Carrillo shared the sentiment and said despite her efforts to “research, prepare, (and) practice” as the election draws closer, she still finds it difficult to gain momentum..

“(I’m) working twice as hard to get my name out there, (and) making sure people understand just because my name is not on the ballot, doesn’t mean I’m not a valid candidate,” Carrillo said.

While city clerk write-in candidate Jackson Paller (Weinberg, ‘17) said being a write-in candidate is an “obvious obstacle” to his run, he has found several aspects of his campaign are not “overly affected” by that status. Like traditional candidates, he said he still has access to forums and can interview for the Democratic Party of Evanston’s endorsement. 

The city clerk race, as well as the 4th and 8th ward aldermanic races, will head to the primary ballot in February because Illinois law states requires a primary if five or more candidates declare candidacy. 

The mayoral race is also on the primary ballot, due to a 1992 referendum that allows for an outright winner in the race if they receive more than 50 percent of the vote on the primary Election Day. 

Ahead of the primary, Witenberg said she is focusing on “best practices” for campaigning, including standing outside of early voting centers and reaching out to residents about her campaign. 

Aside from running for city clerk, Paller, is also a student at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. When not working on his studies, Paller plans to campaign by knocking on doors both for himself and for friends running for other offices, as well as  “being active on social media” and in his neighborhood. 

“I anticipated going into it that I wouldn’t be able to run a traditional campaign,” Paller said. “That raises the question: who is running a traditional campaign?”

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Twitter: @charvarnes11


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