CHICAGO — Most of a slate of Cook County would-be candidates for the Democratic primary who took their fight to continue their races to federal court are now off the March ballot following separate decisions by a federal judge and the Cook County Electoral Board in January.

U.S. District Judge Elaine E. Bucklo handed down the ruling against the candidates on Jan. 24 in the U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois. 

The electoral board then decided during its meeting on Jan. 29 that most of the candidates who filed the lawsuit to stop any board action against them had failed to collect enough valid signatures required to be included on the March ballot.

The would-have-been candidates, which included former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, had been running for seats on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. The electoral board removed Stroger and other members of his slate running for seats on the water reclamation district board, Elizabeth Joyce, Rene Avila and Toni Williams, saying they were 2,300 valid petition signatures shy of the 8,075 they needed to be included on the ballot in March.

Cook County Democrat Party's slated candidates for the water reclamation district are Debra Shore, Kari Steele and Martin Durkan, each seeking a six-year term, and Kim du Buclet, who is seeking a two-year term.

At the same meeting, the electoral board also kicked out former Illinois State Rep. Edward Acevedo from the March ballot against incumbent Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, saying he was about 2,500 valid signatures short of the 8,236 he needed to run. Dart now only faces attorney John Fairman in the primary.

Andrea Raila, a property tax consultant running for Cook County Assessor, managed to hold onto her place on the March ballot. But a hearing officer on Feb. 5 recommended she also be removed, potentially leaving a two-candidate race for Assessor between challenger Fritz Kaegi and incumbent Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios.

Acevedo, Stroger, Shaw, Joyce, Avila, Williams and Raila previously filed in federal court to block any action against them by the electoral board, claiming signature requirements in their races were unconstitutionally high. Bucklo ruled against them.

In their complaint, the candidates claimed their exclusion from the Democratic primary ballot would violate the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They noted the signature requirements imposed on them were more stringent than on candidates for statewide office in Illinois.

They also alleged that they each submitted petitions with more signatures than the minimum required for each to be included on the March ballot. 

"But signature records examinations by the Cook County Clerk and the Chicago Board of Election Commissioner determined that each petition but Raila's (which evidently is still under challenge) fell short of the required number of valid signatures," Bucklo wrote in the order. "All plaintiffs, however, obtained more than the 5,000 valid signatures that would have qualified them for inclusion on the Democratic primary election had they been running for statewide office."

The candidates asked Bucklo to grant temporary and permanent injunctive relief by barring the electoral board from enforcing any signature requirement greater than the 5,000 signatures and to include them on the March 20 Democrat Party Primary ballot. Bucklo denied the motion.

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