PORTAGE PARK — A union official challenged the nominating petitions filed by four of the nine candidates to replace Ald. Tim Cullerton, whose family has represented Portage Park and Dunning since 1973.
Janelle Rau-Clauson, an assistant director for the Service Employee International Union, filed objections to the petitions filed by John Cianci, Michael Duda, Mike Keeney and Jerry Paszek, and sought to have them tossed off the ballot.
Rau-Clauson, a Portage Park resident, could not be reached for comment. A national organization, SEIU represents more than 100,000 employees in Illinois in a variety of fields, and has led the push for a higher minimum wage.
Heather Cherone says "follow the money" to unravel the petition challenge mysteries:
The union's Illinois political action committee gave Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th) $600, and the union's health care political action committee gave Sposato $1,000 in September.
Sposato, a Chicago firefighter, said Rau-Clauson is an acquaintance.
"If everyone followed the rules, they don't have anything to worry about," said Sposato, noting that he survived a challenge to his nominating petitions in 2011.
Rau-Clauson's LinkedIn page also identifies her as the Illinois State Director of President Barack Obama's political organization.
The Feb. 24 election will be the first under a new City Council map that moved most of Dunning from the 36th Ward into the 38th Ward, prompting Sposato's decision to run for what has been known for decades as the "Cullerton Seat" on the City Council.
The petitions filed by Belinda Cadiz; Realtor Tom Caravette; Carmen Hernandez, a City of Chicago water department investigator; Heather Sattler, the chief operating officer of the 100 Club of Chicago; and Sposato were not challenged.
Candidates were required to submit a minimum of 473 signatures from registered 38th Ward voters to qualify for the ballot.
Cianci's name should not be allowed on the ballot because he did not collect enough valid signatures and failed to sign his statement of candidacy, according to Rau-Clauson's objection.
Cianci said he submitted more than 4,000 signatures and election officials checked his paperwork when he filed and said everything was in order.
But a copy of Cianci's statement of candidacy included in Rau-Clauson's objection shows the signature line to be blank.
While Duda submitted 1,046 signatures to Chicago election officials, only 408 are valid, not enough to qualify for the ballot, according to Rau-Clauson's objection.
Duda, who has not created registered a finance committee with state officials or launched an election website or Facebook page, could not be reached Thursday.
While Keeney, a Chicago Police Officer, submitted 683 signatures to Chicago election officials, only 341 are valid, not enough to qualify for the ballot, according to Rau-Clauson's objection.
Keeney did not respond to phone and email messages Thursday.
In her objection to the petitions filed by Paszek, Rau-Clauson accused the Cook County Forest Preserve Police officer of collecting and submitting fraudulent petitions containing 2,200 signatures, many of which she said had been obtained illegally.
Paszek should not be allowed to remain on the ballot, Rau-Clauson told elections officials.
The allegations have no merit, Paszek said.
"To even suggest I didn't circulate my own petitions is ludicrous," Paszek said, adding that his campaign is a clear threat.
If he remains in the race, Paszek will be first on the ballot after winning a lottery for the coveted spot among candidates who filed at 9 a.m. Nov. 17.
In races where no candidate earns 50 percent of the votes cast, a runoff between the top two candidates will take place April 7.
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