A strange political saga featuring a death in office, a write-in election challenged by the governor, and a court battle over a spot on an obscure sewer board appeared headed for a close on Wednesday when a judge made the call in voters’ favor.
Earlier this year, Democrat Cam Davis and Green Party candidate Geoffrey Cubbage were deemed eligible to appear on the ballot in November after a last-minute write-in primary election spurred by the sudden death of Metropolitan Water Reclamation Board Commissioner Tim Bradford. But a few days after that unusual primary election, Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed his go-to Republican, David Walsh.
The district took the issue to court for a judge to determine who would be the commissioner who would weigh in on the agency’s over one-billion dollar budget.
What if a commissioner died a day before the election, or if they died today? Those were some of the hypothetical questions debated along with the language and grammar of Illinois’ election code and MWRD laws.
Ultimately, Circuit Court Judge Patrick Stanton ruled against Walsh, citing “clear language” of the statute. He also noted that Walsh did not present any interest in challenging the primary election for the Bradford vacancy until its conclusion.
“Protecting our water has never come easily,” Davis said. “Today’s court decision reinforces the rights of voters to choose who they want to represent their interests in public office.”
“Judge Stanton’s decision is in keeping with the plain reading of the law, and I thank him for his speedy handling of this case. Voters deserve to know that the candidates they select will in fact serve out the term to which they were elected,” Cubbage said.
Walsh said he already called Davis to congratulate him, and has no plans to appeal the decision.
“While I hoped the judge’s interpretation of the statute would be different, I respect judge Stanton and the decision he made,” Walsh said.
“This was a part-time job, I never expected to be here for three years,” Walsh said of the $70,000 salaried gig to which he was never elected. He plans on continuing with a private consulting business he had previous to his first appointment to the Board in 2015. Walsh will continue to fill the role until the new commissioner is sworn in following the election.
Cook County Clerk David Orr announced the vacancy and consulted with the State’s Attorney before opening the race to write-in candidates.
“I am glad the court upheld my decision and democracy has been strengthened, giving the final choice to voters, which is where it should be,” he said of the ruling.
Cook County Democratic Party Chair Toni Preckwinkle backed Davis in the court dispute. She said in a statement the ruling sends a message to Rauner that he “can’t buy or appoint his friends to every seat available.”