The Illinois Appellate Court on March 15 announced it would expedite an appeal by a North Riverside political party that is hoping to get its candidates back on the April 9 ballot.
Candidates belonging to the Transparency and Accountability in Politics Party filed their notice of appeal on March 8 after a Cook County Circuit Court judge disqualified them during a hearing on Feb. 28.
Judge Paul Karkula ruled that the party’s name was one word too long, knocking the entire slate — Rocco DeSantis, mayor; Peter Culafic, clerk; and Marybelle Mandel, Annabelle Downs and Luigi “Gino” Labellarte, trustee — off the ballot.
However, the candidates are asking the appellate court to reverse more than just Karkula’s ruling. They are also asking for a reversal of two other rulings made by the North Riverside electoral board in January. Those decisions individually disqualified DeSantis and Mandel, and Karkula declined to rule on those matters on Feb. 28.
It’s critical for those two candidates in particular that the appellate court reverse the electoral board’s ruling because it would be very difficult to have the circuit court consider those two matters prior to the April 9 election.
TAP’s attorney, Lawrence Zdarsky, must file his brief — which will include all of the supporting documents from the local electoral board decision — by March 15. Burt Odelson, who is the attorney for objector John Beresheim, must file his brief by March 22 and Zdarsky must file his response by March 27.
Both sides could know the decision of the three-judge appellate court panel by March 28. The appellate court is open for business on Good Friday.
“We’re extremely pleased because the appellate court does not put appeals on an expedited schedule very often,” said Zdarsky, adding that the court may have decided to consider the matter because Karkula’s ruling set a legal precedent in Illinois. No candidate had ever been challenged previously on the basis of the length of the political party name.
“It’s hard to say why the panel decided to take it up, but we’re extremely happy to be getting a shot to be heard,” Zdarsky said.
Meanwhile, there was a bit of an administrative shake-up within TAP last week, when Culafic resigned as treasurer of the party. On March 13, Culafic filed a letter with the Illinois State Board of Elections stating his intention to resign the post. The new treasurer, according to the letter, is H. Bob Demopoulos, a village trustee who is aligned with the TAP slate.
Asked why he had resigned, Culafic told the Landmark, “I’ve got a lot going on and don’t have time for this responsibility. It’s just a personal decision, that’s all.”
Culafic said he was still a member of the party and that he was waiting to hear the decision of the appeals court.
George Georgopoulos, the North Riverside mayoral candidate whose name was stricken from the ballot in January by the local electoral board, has started displaying lawn signs touting his run for mayor as a write-in.
According to a spokeswoman for the Cook County Clerk’s Office, Georgopoulos has until April 2 to file as a write-in. Despite the fact that the county clerk set a write-in filing deadline of Feb. 7, those candidates whose petitions were challenged have until a week prior to the election to do so, the spokeswoman said.
As of Monday afternoon, Georgopoulos had not yet filed as a write-in with the county clerk’s office.