Judge Won’t Knock|GOP Pol from Ballot

     CHICAGO (CN) — A Federal judge granted the Republican Party a preliminary injunction stopping a hearing to remove a congressional candidate from the November ballot.
     In its lawsuit filed in June, the party said two Democrats, Frances Sapone and Sammy Tenuta, infiltrated its ranks by running for and winning positions as ward committeemen on Chicago’s far west side.
     According to the complaint, Sapone and Tenuta’s candidacies don’t count due to a bylaw the party passed last year disqualifying anyone who had voted for another party in a primary over the eight years prior, and their committeeman spots are considered vacant.
     Sapone “is a perfect example of why the new bylaw was passed,” the party says.
     In a verified objector’s petition filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections, Sapone said she and Tenuta were not notified of a vote nominating Jeffrey Leef to run in the 7th Congressional District and his candidacy should be voided.
     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.
     The Illinois and Chicago chapters of the GOP filed their lawsuit to stop the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners (CBOE) from holding a hearing for Sapone. They say if allowed, they will have no candidate to run in November.
     Judge Milton Shadur said in his opinion that “if the Board goes forward with its hearing while recognizing Sapone as the 29th Ward Committeeman, the GOP will have been deprived of its right to select its leaders and field a Republican nominee for the 7th Congressional District.”
     The board has argued that it is simply trying to prevent fraud and protect the voters in Sapone and Tenuta’s wards, and, said Judge Shadur, advanced “a number of frankly misleading defenses of its own procedures.”
     The GOP added the bylaw in question to prevent “what it considered to be malicious interference by individuals who could be described as donkeys in elephants’ clothing,” Shadur said and “it is crystal clear” that the party’s First Amendment rights would be violated by ignoring its selection process.
     Shadur added that the “Board has failed utterly to identify any logical compelling justification for it burdening of the GOP’s First Amendment rights. It is an understatement to say that the GOP is highly likely — in fact it is certain — to prevail on its claim under that Amendment.”
     The party also argued that its right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment is being violated.
     Christopher Cleveland, Chairman of the Chicago Republican Party, says the most surprising part about the lawsuit is that the CBOE would step in as an active party at all.
     “They are supposed to be neutral,” Cleveland says. “They’ve really exposed themselves for what they are … partisan Democrats.”
     Judge Shadur dealt another blow to the defense this week, throwing out a “pile of documents” submitted by Sapone and Tenuta’s attorney Pericles Abbasi.
     Abbasi’s submission “does total violence to the nature of responsive pleadings” that should state a defense in short and plain terms, said Shadur. “Just where defense counsel derived his bizarre notion as to the nature of federal pleading is a mystery.”
     These latest developments are “very encouraging,” Cleveland says. “The judge has recognized that the case is really a slam dunk for us.”
     The CBOE has not returned a request for comment on the preliminary injunction from Courthouse News.

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