Cook County GOP Can |Block ‘Carpetbaggers’

     CHICAGO (CN) — A federal judge upheld a Cook County GOP bylaw passed due to Republican fears that their seats were being infiltrated by Democratic operatives.
     In its lawsuit filed in June, the party said two Democrats, Frances Sapone and Sammy Tenuta, infiltrated its ranks by running for and winning (unopposed) positions as ward committeemen on Chicago’s far west side.
     Last year, the Cook County GOP became concerned about “carpetbagging” candidates who were actually Democratic operatives, and passed a bylaw disqualifying anyone who had voted for another party in a primary over the eight years prior.
     Under this bylaw, the chairman of the Cook County Republican Central Committee declared Sapone and Tenuta’s offices vacant.
     The two unrecognized committeemen were therefore not told about a nominating meeting at which Republican ward committeemen from within the 7th Congressional District selected Jeffrey Leef as their nominee for Congress.
     In a verified objector’s petition filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections, Sapone said Leef’s candidacy should be voided because she and Tenuta were not notified of the vote.
     They say as ward leaders, they must play a part in the candidate selection process.
     The committee claims Sapone and Tenuta are merely trying to underhandedly ensure that a Democrat fills a slot that should go to a Republican, because if the hearing goes forward, they would have no congressional candidate to run in November.
     U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur granted the GOP an injunction in August stopping the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners from holding a hearing for Sapone.
     On Wednesday, Shadur said that “interfering with the GOP’s application of Section 3 would severely burden the party’s First Amendment rights.”
     The constitutional right to freedom of association constrains governmental interference with a party’s business of choosing its members, the judge continued.
     “When push comes to show, defendants’ argument are reduced to the impermissible position that because political parties perform a number of important functions in Illinois, the state should have broader authority to regulate their internal workings that the United States Constitution allows,” Shadur said.
     While committeemen participate in state functions, such as recommending judges for election and filling vacancies in the General Assembly by appointment, these “involve functions and duties that are no better than tangential to the party’s essential inner workings,” the 15-page opinion states.
     States cannot regulate “the qualifications that the parties set for internal leadership and the manner in which parties select their nominees,” Shadur said.

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