Ill. Speaker Accused of Diluting Hispanic Vote

     CHICAGO (CN) — The speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives unlawfully used phony candidates to dilute the vote in a mostly Hispanic district, a former candidate claims in court.
     Jason Gonzales sued Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan; aide Shaw Decremer; state Rep. Silvana Tabares; two political action committees; and others in Chicago Federal Court on Friday.
     Gonzales, the son of working class, Hispanic parents, “grappled with racial prejudice, various behavioral disorders, and trouble with school,” according to the complaint.
     He says he left home at 17, “telling his father, ‘you will not make me miserable.'”
     After serving time as a teenager for the unlawful use of credit cards at local malls, Gonzales went back to finish high school, and ultimately earned an MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Master of Public Administration from Harvard, the complaint says.
     Gonzales now “speaks to at-risk kids in Chicago about the importance of education, overcoming adversity, and staying in school,” and co-founded a nonprofit.
     But Gonzales’ criminal history has barred him from seeking elected office, despite his hopes to thus take his public service to “the next level,” according to the complaint.
     Though two former Illinois governors refused to give Gonzales gubernatorial pardons of his crimes, in 2015, then-Gov. Pat Quinn granted Gonzales executive clemency and a full pardon, in the process sealing or expunging all of his criminal files, the complaint states.
     Gonzales claims he collected the required number of nominating petition signatures to file for candidacy in the District 22 House seat, and arrived at the state Board of Elections office about 15 minutes before the deadline last Nov. 30.
     However, he claims, Madigan’s aide, defendant Decremer, “had been staking out the election office prior to Gonzales’ arrival and kept his attention fixed on Gonzales.”
     Gonzales says he filed his nominating petition “minutes before” the deadline.
     “Decremer, observing that Gonzales had just filed his nominating petition, suddenly produced the nominating petitions for two additional candidates for the District 22 election,” Joe Barboza and Grasiela Rodriguez, according to the complaint.
     But Barboza “was a phony candidate planted by the defendants herein to dilute the Hispanic vote,” Gonzales claims. “‘Barboza’ is an Hispanic surname.”
     About 70 percent of the residents of District 22 are Hispanic, the complaint states.
     Indeed, “Barboza did not actively campaign, have a campaign website, or otherwise promote his candidacy,” the complaint says.
     Neither did Rodriguez, who was also a “phony candidate planted by the defendants herein to dilute the Hispanic vote,” Gonzales claims. “‘Rodriguez’ is also an Hispanic surname.”
     Madigan, on the other hand, “is Caucasian—not Hispanic,” the complaint states.
     “At a polling place during early voting, Gonzales witnessed [21st District representative] Tabares defaming Gonzales to voters by instructing them not to vote for Gonzales because he was a ‘convicted felon,’ and similar defamatory statements,” according to the complaint.
     Chicagoland journalist “Hanania published defamatory statements about Gonzales in his columns, postings, blogs, and the like,” the complaint states.
     Madigan has been House speaker since 1983, with the exception of the 89th General Assembly, in 1995-96.
     The 39-count complaint alleges violations of the First, 14th, and 15th Amendments; defamation; false light; unlawful disclosure; and conspiracy.
     Gonzales seeks compensatory and punitive damages, interest, and attorneys’ fees.
     He is represented by Anthony Peraica & Associates Ltd. in Chicago.
     Madigan said in a statement distributed by his political organization that Gonzales “cannot be trusted and his lawsuit is without merit,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
     Madigan did not return a request for comment Wednesday.

%d bloggers like this: