BROWN: Court says GOP stuck with Dems elected to GOP party posts

BROWN: Court says GOP stuck with Dems elected to GOP party posts

19th Ward Republican Committeeman Steven Graves. File Photo by Mark Brown

For the second time this month, Cook County Republican officials suffered a legal setback in their efforts to purge suspected Democratic infiltrators from their ranks.

Circuit Judge Margarita Kulys-Hoffman on Friday made a preliminary ruling in favor of Steven Graves, who was elected 19th Ward Republican committeeman in 2016 and promptly thrown out of office by GOP leaders.

Graves was among 13 GOP committeemen ousted on the basis they had voted in Democratic primaries during the previous eight years in violation of local Republican party bylaws.

But the bylaw in question was enacted only after early voting had begun in the 2016 primary election when GOP officials say they suspected Democrats were running their own candidates for Republican committeemen in an effort to control the future appointment of election judges. Graves sued.

OPINION

In denying the Cook County Republican Party’s motion for summary judgment against Graves, Kulys-Hoffman found Republicans were “essentially invalidating the election results” by dumping the committeemen they suspected of being disloyal.

That’s been the reason I keep following this issue.

It’s not that I fail to appreciate the possibility of Democratic skullduggery in trying to control the local GOP. There’s a long history of that in Chicago.

Even now, 20th Ward Republican Committeeman Maria Bailey is the mother of 20th Ward Democratic Committeeman Kevin Bailey. Wonder how that happened?

But I’ve always believed that actual election results should be the deciding factor, yes, even when we elect the likes of a Donald Trump.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a prior federal court ruling in the GOP’s favor on the same issue.

In that case involving two other GOP ward committeemen, Frances Sapone (29th) and Sammy Tenuta (36th), the Court of Appeals ruled the dispute was a state court issue that never should have been decided in the federal courts.

U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur’s ruling had blocked the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners from recognizing the 13 removed committeemen as the party’s legal officeholders.

“His decision is now null and void,” said Pericles Abbasi, the attorney for Sapone.

An Election Board spokesman said the board intends to resume official recognition of the 13 disputed officials but will go back to federal court to seek clarification.

Chicago Republican Party Chairman Chris Cleveland dismissed both court rulings as procedural in nature and said Republicans would continue to “vigorously” defend their position.

“Under no circumstances are we going to knuckle under to Chicago Machine attempts to infiltrate our party,” Cleveland said.

Republicans contend federal law makes clear the right of political parties to pick their own officials.

Graves, a former 19th Ward Democratic precinct captain, has consistently denied being in cahoots with the Democrats in his switch to the GOP.

So has Sapone.

“I am not a Democratic plant,” Sapone told me Friday at the Daley Center, where she had come to support Graves.


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