Scott Drury loses first step in AG ballot challenge over disclosure form

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Democratic Attorney General candidate Scott Drury attended the forum at the University of Chicago Monday, January 8, 2017. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times

An Illinois State Board of Elections hearing examiner has recommended state Rep. Scott Drury be knocked from the Democratic ballot for Illinois attorney general because he filed an incorrect statement of economic interest — a charge the north suburban lawmaker plans to fight.

The recommendation is the first step in the petition challenge. While calls and emails to the board were not returned on Tuesday, Drury’s campaign early Wednesday produced another recommendation by the board’s general counsel, which “does not concur” with the initial recommendation. That recommendation says the statement Drury filed is sufficient since it “relates to the State of Illinois,” not just the district he represents.

A hearing is scheduled forThursdayin Chicago, where the board will hear both recommendations.

According to the initial hearing examiner’s recommendation, Drury filed a statement of economic interest, required to run for office, but submitted a statement from April 2017 that he submitted to the Secretary of State for his role as state representative.

Drury’s attorneys claim his statement is accurate because it was filed within a year, which is required. And they argue that even if he had filed one for the attorney general post, it would have been identical to the one submitted.

The board’s hearing examiner disagrees.

“The defect in the present factual situation cannot be characterized as ‘minor.’ Had the Candidate submitted a statement of economic interests for an Office in the Executive Branch but designated the wrong office, for example, ‘Treasurer’ rather than ‘Attorney General,’ perhaps the defect could have been characterized as ‘minor,'” board hearing examiner Jim Tenuto wrote.

“The failure to file a statement of economic interests for the Office of Attorney General renders the nomination petitions insufficient and not in compliance with the Election Code and Illinois Government Ethics Act,” wrote Tenuto.

Tenuto writes that Drury’s economic interest statement as state representative is “not applicable” and that he was required to file a new statement for the attorney general’s office. Tenuto writes that members of the General Assembly are in a different unit of government than members of the executive branch, and therefore, his previous statement isn’t valid.

An attorney for Drury noted the petition challenge has nothing to do with required signatures and said they are “looking forward to presenting his case to the board.”

“The issue is a matter of form having nothing to do with the number or validity of the petition signatures gathered by Mr. Drury’s campaign,” said Casey Westover in a statement. “Mr. Drury has responded to the recommendation setting forth numerous legal reasons why the Board should reject the recommendation.”

Should Drury lose the challenge, he will still have plenty of avenues to appeal, from the circuit court to the appellate court, all the way up to the Illinois Supreme Court. The cases are typically expedited, since the primary is just over two months away.

Drury is in a crowded field of challengers. Former Gov. Pat Quinn; state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago; Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering; former city official Sharon Fairley; lawyer Aaron Goldstein; former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti and Chicago Park Board President Jesse Ruiz are vying for the post Lisa Madigan is giving up.

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