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Judge denies challenger’s bid to stop Hairston swearing-in

Circuit Court Judge LaGuina Clay-Herron denied William Calloway’s motion for a temporary restraining order to stop 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston from being sworn in Monday.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th),left, and challenger William Calloway. File Photos. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
William Calloway will file a temporary restraining order against 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston to prevent her from being sworn in during Monday’s inauguration ceremony until a new election can take place in at least four precincts in the ward.
Rich Hein

Just three days before a new City Council is scheduled to be sworn in, challenger William Calloway filed a legal Hail Mary Pass on Friday designed to stop Ald. Leslie Hairston from beginning her sixth term in the South Side’s 5th Ward.

But Circuit Court Judge LaGuina Clay-Herron denied Calloway’s motion for a temporary restraining order.

Calloway’s lawyer had insisted it’s about the “integrity” of the election.

Hairston’s campaign said the community activist is starting to sound like a “sore loser.”

The unsuccessful April runoff challenger sought the temporary restraining order against the veteran alderman to keep her from being sworn in.

Calloway argued that some precincts are missing a mandatory form that would certify their results, and 15 precincts are missing printed results, the election results have no integrity and allowing Hairston to assume office would cause “irreparable harm to [Calloway].”

Calloway’s attorney, Frank Avila, said “this is about a free and fair election.”

LaGuina Clay-Herron is the judge who presided over the discovery recount process.

“[Election judges] must certify votes — if four precincts aren’t verified … then that means the votes don’t have certification at least in those four precincts,” Avila said. “We should have a new election in at least those four precincts, but also the entire ward.”

In the April runoff, Calloway came up 176 votes short of unseating 20-year incumbent Hairston. The community activist sought a discovery recount last month, alleging that there were irregularities in the vote tallying process.

Before the judge’s ruling, Hairston’s team didn’t sound worried — and probably rightfully so.

Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, said that even if a judge were to grant the order and block Hairston from taking the oath or being sworn in, the current office holder retains the post.

“We’re operating based on what the Chicago Board of Elections said, ‘Leslie Hairston will be sworn in with the rest of the city officials on May 20,’” Delmarie Cobb, a spokeswoman for Hairston’s reelection campaign, said.

“Calloway has every right to continue seeking redress if he believes something wrong took place on Election Day, but at some point he starts to look like a sore loser whose only intention is to force Leslie Hairston to incur additional legal fees and cost taxpayers more money,” Cobb said.

Allen had said it was “highly doubtful” that a court would grant such an order and called it a “manufactured emergency” and the board will file to dismiss Calloway’s election contest petition and to reject the temproary restraining order.

“It’s been 29 days since the final proclamation, 39 days since they filed their election contest, and 45 days since the election — where was the emergency then?” Allen asked.

“Thirteen is pretty close, 25 is sorta close, 176 is not really close in a ward race, that would require finding and tossing out a half a precinct’s worth of votes. That’s a pretty tall order.”

The law provides that until or unless the new office holder is seated, appointed or elected, the current office holder retains the office, Allen said.

But Calloway isn’t giving up.

He said he will keep seeking to oust Hairston and pursuing the case, which will be back before Clay-Herron Thursday.

“Over the past five years, me and my community that I represent has been part of a resistance ... and I’m going to continue to operate with that resistance against the status quo,” Calloway said after the dismissal.

“This has nothing to do with being a sore loser. It’s who I am as an activist.”