Mayor Rahm Emanuel was accused Tuesday of “disenfranchising” African-American voters with a petition challenge that seeks to knock millionaire businessman Willie Wilson off the Feb. 24 mayoral ballot.
Emanuel’s campaign manager Michael Ruemmler has alleged that there is an “astonishing pattern of deception” to the 47,500 signatures that Wilson filed.
Ruemmler has claimed that Wilson’s petitions include “fake and duplicate signatures, false addresses of petitioners, and a particularly sloppy overall petition submission, rife with name and address strikeouts.”
Challenge hearings continue. The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners has not yet issued a final ruling.
But the Wilson campaign is trying to turn the tables.
On Tuesday, Wilson’s attorney Frank Avila Jr. held a news conference in front of the mayor’s office to announce plans to subpoena Emanuel and put the mayor on the hot seat.
Avila charged that the requirement that candidates file 12,500 valid signatures to run for mayor of Chicago is an unconstitutional ploy to deny ballot access.
He further contended that the election board hearings are “rigged” because Election Board Chairman Langdon Neal runs a law firm that benefits from millions in city contracts.
Avila argued that Emanuel’s election lawyer Michael Kasper, who plays the same role for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), should be “disqualified” because he helped write the state’s election code and served as a lobbyist for the company that initiated touch-screen voting.
“This objection and the objection process is similar to the poll tax we used to see in the Deep South. This objection and the objection process is similar to a literacy test for Mr. Wilson,” Avila said.
“This is a racist and discriminatory campaign. It’s a racist and discriminatory objection. And the process… violates the Constitution.”
The rambling news conference concluded with a political allegation that, Avila contends, is at the core of Emanuel’s efforts to knock off the Feb. 24 ballot an African-American businessman who has built a strong following by donating millions to black churches and hosting a weekly Gospel music television show, “Singsation.”
“You have a strong white candidate in Bob Fioretti. You have a strong Hispanic candidate in Jesus Garcia. But what Rahm Emanuel cannot take is the tri-fecta of a strong African-American candidate. He’s afraid,” Avila said.
“With Willie Wilson in the race, Rahm is in a run-off….Yes, Willie Wilson is a relative political unknown, except in church groups and business circles. But he’s polling right now at 6 percent of the vote. That would put Rahm Emanuel into a run-off. If you give us until February, Willie Wilson is gonna win that race.”
Avila added, “I call on Rahm Emanuel to drop this objection….If he’s been so good for the city of Chicago, then what does he care? [Wilson] is a man with a seventh grade education. He’s never run for office.”
Emanuel’s campaign spokesman Steve Mayberry responded to Avila’s tirade with an emailed statement that was measured by comparison.
“We understand why the Wilson campaign is so upset. Just yesterday, 991 so-called signatures that [former State Senator] Rickey Hendon submitted on behalf of the Wilson campaign were thrown out by the Board of Elections,” Mayberry wrote.
“This disregard for the rules to get on the ballot is nothing new for Mr. Hendon and it is completely appropriate for the Board of Elections to review them.”