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A field of 13? Ford moves closer to spot on mayoral ballot, two others in limbo

Mayoral Candidate LaShawn Ford speaks to community members and the media at a mayoral candidate forum at Greater St. John Bible Church, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, in Chicago. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Mayoral candidate La Shawn K. Ford. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Voters may be choosing from a baker’s dozen of mayoral candidates in February if the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners chooses to uphold a hearing officer’s latest recommendation.

The hearing officer recommended rejecting a challenge to the candidacy of state Rep. La Shawn Ford, but the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners still has to finalize the West Side Democrat’s spot on the ballot. That decision could come during the board’s Saturday morning meeting.

If he succeeds, Ford would join 12 others who have secured spots on the Feb. 26 ballot.

Objections are still pending against two other candidates — Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown and tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin — so the field could rise to 15 if both succeed in fending off the challenges.

Entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin, left, and Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, right. Sun-Times file photos.

Entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin, left, and Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, right. Sun-Times file photos.

A hearing officer recommended objections against Ford be dismissed in part because rival mayoral candidate Willie Wilson had a “rampant photocopy issue” in the objections his camp filed against Ford, including variations being added in or removed on some sheets and changes to page numbers, meaning the objection was “not well grounded in fact and law, and is not pled in good faith.”

Ford said he was “grateful” for the hearing officer’s thorough review of the objection.

“We have so many grassroots folks ready to work, and continue working, with confidence,” Ford said. “It’s difficult when you have a cloud over your campaign — donors aren’t confident in donating or volunteers aren’t confident when they’re knocking on doors because the question of whether or not you’ll be certified always arises. With so many changes coming to city government, this is the right time for our campaign.”

Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, said there’s no set deadline for getting through all of the objections, but the board is aiming to have the ballot settled on or around Jan. 21, which he said is a typical timeframe to get through all of the challenges —181 total objections for this election cycle for mayoral, aldermanic and other city offices. That’s a little below the 200 objection average and well below the 426 objections the board had to deal with in 2011, Allen said.

Early voting is set to begin in the wards Feb. 11.

As for the other two mayoral candidates still fighting to stay on the ballot, Brown is scheduled to have status hearings on Friday, and Sales-Griffin is in the affidavit phase, which means circulating letters and trying to verify signatures that have been knocked off by objectors.

The tech entrepreneur said that for the most part the process has been straightforward, but the objection process is a hurdle.

Sales-Griffin says he plans to roll out something to help others who want to run for office to make the process more accessible and to bring Chicago more in line with the election protocols in other cities.

“It seems very inaccessible,” Sales-Griffin said. “With limited resources, or for a regular person who wants to participate in democracy, it can be difficult like it’s not for someone who doesn’t have an immense amount of resources or a big team. I’m excited and grateful that I get to experience this in its entirety because it will allow me to shed light on this.”