Cook County Record

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Madigan forces claim nothing wrong with placing 'sham' candidates on ballot to defeat Hispanic opponent


By Dan Churney | Jul 11, 2019

Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and some of his allies are arguing they were exercising free speech when they allegedly ran two Hispanic "sham candidates" to lure votes from a Hispanic primary challenger to Madigan, who is now suing Madigan and others on grounds such alleged tactics were unlawful.

Jason Gonzales filed suit in August 2016 in Chicago federal court alleging Madigan and some of his supporters engaged in underhanded methods to ensure a lopsided win for the Speaker in the 2016 Democratic Primary. The alleged unethical acts included slating two Hispanic candidates for no reason other than to split the Hispanic vote Gonzales has argued he could have received. The candidates were Joe Barbosa and Grasiela Rodriguez, who are also being sued by Gonzales.

Other defendants named in the lawsuit include the 13th Chicago Ward Democratic Organization, which is chaired by Madigan; former Madigan staffer Shaw Decremer; Madigan's campaign committee; and state Rep. Silvana Tabares (D-Chicago).. 

Gonzales claimed his constitutional rights were breached and defendants violated state laws regarding defamation, criminal history disclosure and conspiracy to prevent voting. 

Defendants have asserted Gonzales was a Republican "mole" sent to infiltrate the Democratic Party and that Democratic efforts against him were protected by the First Amendment. The Madigan forces contend Gonzales' suit seeks to infringe on Barbosa's and Rodriguez's right to take part in the political process and run for public office, regardless of whether they were "spoiler candidates."

Gonzales is arguing defendants should not be permitted to use the First Amendment as a defense. Defendants countered by filing arguments on why they should be allowed.

In a brief filed July 8, defense attorney Adam Vaught maintained federal court rules required Gonzales to lodge motions against use of their defense within 21 days of defendants filing the defense. Defendants filed Jan. 17, 2018, and Gonzales responded more than seven months later, according to court papers. Secondly, and more to the point, Vaught asserted "complaints about campaign strategies, even 'dirty tricks' that successfully undermine candidacies, are not actionable in federal court."

Vaught pointed out a candidate does not have to state their "intent" in order to appear on a primary ballot. Rather, they only have to file proper papers and obtain the required number of voter signatures on nominating petitions. 

"In fact, the state could not impose an intent requirement on any candidate for their purpose in running for office," Vaught said. "For example, states cannot force candidates to swear loyalty oaths disclaiming certain beliefs to access the ballot. If the state cannot require Barbosa and Rodriguez to swear loyalty to the United States to run for office, the state certainly cannot require Barbosa and Rodriguez to swear they are not running to make it harder for plaintiff to win a primary."

Vaught noted communists who seek to alter the American form of government are allowed to campaign for office, so Barbosa and Rodriguez can run "with whatever intent they had, including the alleged intent to take votes away from plaintiff."

Gonzales, 45, also alleged Madigan's team improperly obtained Gonzales' youthful criminal record, for which he had been pardoned, then fed the material to a journalist, identified as Ray Hanania, who published it in the Arlington Heights-based Daily Herald.

Further, Gonzales is alleging Tabares defamed him by telling prospective voters to not elect Gonzales because he was a “convicted felon."

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly is presiding over the case.

Gonzales is represented by Anthony J. Peraica & Associates of Chicago.

Defendants are represented by the firms of Hinshaw & Culbertson; Richard J. Prendergast Ltd.; James P. Nally PC; Law Offices of Scott B. Erdman; Akerman LLP; and Kasper & Nottage, all of Chicago; in addition to Del Galdo Law Group, of Berwyn; Heather Wier Vaught PC, of LaGrange; and Law Offices of Michael Kreloff, of Northbrook.

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Organizations in this Story

13th Ward Democratic Organization Anthony J Peraica and Associates Del Galdo Law Group LLC Fletcher, O'Brien, Kasper & Nottage Hinshaw Culbertson Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan Michael J. Kasper Richard J Prendergast, Ltd U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

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