"Access to the ballot is a substantial right," argued Scott Drury's attorney, Casey Westover. It was the argument that won out in the hearing over whether Drury should be allowed on the ballot as a Democratic candidate for attorney general due to a technicality with his statement of economic interest.
Candidates have to file a statement of economic interest to expose any potential financial conflicts of interest. Drury filed a statement in November 2017 in time for the 2018 March primary election. However, the statement was filed for the office of "Representative in the General Assembly" instead of attorney general, which is a different branch of government.
Petitioner Thomas J. Rottman, Jr., argued that Drury's statement should not qualify due to this discrepancy, as laid out by attorney James Nally.
"When you seek a different office in a different unit of government, you have to file a new economic interest statement," says Nally. "The answers may be the same to the same questions, but you're still obligated to do that. That wasn't done by the candidate."
The hearing officer, James Tenuto agreed. However, the board's general counsel did not.
"The General Counsel is not convinced that the Legislative and Executive, being separate branches of government, are also separate units of government," wrote General Counsel Ken Menzel. "The statement of economic interest that the Candidate has on file as a State Representative relates to the State of Illinois, not only the Representative District that he represents."
At the hearing on Thursday, board member William McGuffage spoke to the importance of economic interest statements. "Courts have declared this requirement that you indicate the office for which you are seeking on the statement of economic interest.”
McGuffage, along with Charles Scholz and Casandra Watson voted with the recommendation of the hearing officer. But the five other board members disagreed, allowing Drury to remain on the ballot.
Drury also challenged opponent Renato Mariotti, saying he lacked enough valid petition signatures. The board unanimously agreed in favor of Mariotti.
Details on the case are in the State Board of Elections Agenda, beginning on page 394.
Drury and Mariotti will compete with Sharon Fairley, Aaron Goldstein, Pat Quinn, Kwame Raoul, Nancy Rotering and Jesse Ruiz for the Democratic nomination.
The board also overruled objections to nominating petitions for Republican Attorney General candidate Gary Grasso. Objector Lou Atsaves, in addition to 6,193 objections to specific signatures on Grasso's nominating petitions, claimed that "The Candidate's petition exhibits a pattern of fraud and false swearing."
Examiners sustained 4,560 of Atsaves's objections, which left 5,400 valid signatures -- more than the required minimum of 5,000. Grasso's case appears on page 467 of the board agenda.
Grasso will face attorney Erika Harold in March for the Republican nomination for Attorney General.
- WNIJ's Victor Yehling contributed to this report.