Turns out, it was a word too far.
Cook County Judge Paul Karkula on Feb. 20 upheld a ruling of the North Riverside electoral board, agreeing that the entire slate of candidates for the Transparency & Accountability in Politics Party should be stricken from the April ballot.
The reason? The name of the party, said Karkula, is six words. State election law permits just five.
“To me, ‘Transparency and Accountability in Politics Party,’ is six words,” said Karkula. “There’s no other way to look at it.”
Karkula’s ruling means that unless TAP appeals the ruling to a higher court, only the names of candidates from the VIP Party and independent trustee candidate Richard Alvarez will appear on the April 9 ballot in North Riverside.
TAP Party mayoral candidate Rocco DeSantis had no comment last week on whether he’d pursue an appeal. And as late as Monday afternoon, there was still no decision on what the next step would be.
DeSantis and his fellow slate mates could decide to run as write-in candidates if they decide not to pursue an appeal. According to a Cook County Clerk spokeswoman, candidates involved in ballot challenges have up to one week prior to the election to file as write-ins.
DeSantis did not return a phone call from the Landmark on Monday seeking comment. His attorney, Richard Means, confirmed on Monday that DeSantis and his fellow candidates were still undecided.
“We’re still considering our alternatives,” said Means. “It’ll probably be another couple of days.”
Karkula rejected the argument of DeSantis’ attorney, Richard Means, that the ampersand in the party name should not be considered a word. Nor did he agree that the word “party” was not part of its name.
He also rejected Means’ secondary argument, that even if the party’s name didn’t pass muster, the candidates should be allowed to run as independents. Means cited case law that allowed for candidates of a disqualified slate to run as independents.
However, Karkula ruled that the case law cited wasn’t relevant and indicated that favoring such an interpretation would set a bad precedent. Election law imposes more restrictions on independent candidates with respect to the number of signatures they must collect, for example.
“Just think of the possibility for collusion,” said Karkula, saying a group of individuals could decide to run as a slate and chose an eight-word name in order to get it disqualified on purpose and then run as independents.
“It would make a cheaper, more expedient way to do it,” Karkula said.
Because that one objection disqualified TAP’s entire slate from the ballot, Karkula did not rule on any of the other objections made by North Riverside resident John Beresheim, a VIP supporter. He was represented in court by noted election attorney Burt Odelson.
Beresheim had also objected to DeSantis’ candidacy, arguing that he wasn’t eligible to hold the office of mayor because he was still technically a North Riverside police officer. DeSantis is on injury disability from the police department and hasn’t been on active duty since late 2006.
In addition, Beresheim had objected to the candidacy of TAP trustee candidate Marybelle Mandel, arguing she will not have lived in North Riverside for one full year at the time of the election.
Whether DeSantis chooses to appeal Karkula’s ruling, he will be back at the Richard J. Daley Center next week. DeSantis is also fighting to retain his position as village trustee, after Mayor Kenneth Krochmal filed suit in January to oust him from the job.
Krochmal is using the same argument Beresheim used in his objection to DeSantis’ candidacy for mayor — that his status as a police officer is incompatible with his job as trustee. Karkula left that ruling to be made by Cook County Judge Mary Lane Mikva.
The case is set to be heard on Feb. 28 at 9:45 a.m. in Room 2508 of the Daley Center.
DeSantis was elected trustee in 2011. No one objected to his candidacy at that time.