TAP is not going down without a fight. The North Riverside political party, whose candidates were tossed off the ballot by a Cook County Circuit Court judge last month, seeks to have that ruling reversed.
On March 8, the party and its candidates filed its appeal in the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court. The appeal not only asks the court to reverse the circuit court’s ruling but also asks the appellate court to overturn the ruling handed down in January by the North Riverside electoral board and to reinstate TAP’s candidates on the ballot.
Because the election will take place in less than one month, TAP is asking for the appellate court to expedite the process. While an expedited process is critical for TAP’s case, the outcome may be a longshot. Very few cases per year are expedited in appellate court, according to TAP’s attorney, Lawrence Zdarsky.
“They’re going into this with their eyes wide open,” said Zdarsky of TAP’s candidates. “They understand the uphill battle they have.”
On Feb. 20, Judge Paul Karkula ruled that the political party’s name on its nominating petitions — Transparency and Accountability in Politics Party — was too long. State statute allows political party names to be five words long. Karkula ruled TAP’s name was six words. That ruling disqualified all of TAP’s candidates — Rocco DeSantis, mayor; Peter Culafic, clerk; and Marybelle Mandel, Annabelle Downs and Luigi “Gino” Labellarte, trustee — from the ballot.
Karkula did not rule on two other objections made by North Riverside resident John Beresheim. He argued that DeSantis was unable to run for mayor because he has not officially retired as a North Riverside police officer. DeSantis draws a disability pension and has not worked as a patrolman since December 2006. Beresheim also claimed Mandel did not live in North Riverside for one year prior to the April 9 election.
The local electoral board sustained all of Beresheim’s objections. But because Karkula dealt with only one of the objections, the two others remain unresolved. Even if TAP wins its appeal, the matter will go back to circuit court, unless the appellate court also overrules the local electoral board.
So in addition to the question of whether the appellate court will expedite the case, TAP is also hoping the appellate court will review the rest of the case instead of shipping it back to circuit court.
“That’s the $64,000 question,” Zdarsky said. “We do run that risk. But the candidates feel strongly that politically what they’re attempting to do is important in this election.”
Zdarsky said he and election attorney Richard Means, who represented the party and DeSantis at the circuit court level, cautioned TAP’s candidates that pursuing the appeal might be foolhardy.
“We advised them that perhaps it was not best to spend the time, effort and money, but they decided to do it anyway,” said Zdarsky.
If TAP loses the appeal, its candidates could choose to run as write-in candidates. They have until April 2 to file as write-ins with the Cook County Clerk.
Zdarsky said TAP may know if the appellate court is interested in expediting the appeal by as early as the end of this week.
“But we don’t hold our breath because we know so few cases are taken on an expedited basis,” said Zdarsky.