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Hearing officer won’t let Wilson end challenge; Sales-Griffin may be off ballot

Neal Sales-Griffin, co-founder of Startup League

Neal Sales-Griffin | Sun-Times file photo

Tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin could lose his spot on the ballot for next month’s Chicago mayoral election, even though one of his rivals wants to withdraw his challenge to Sales-Griffin’s nominating petitions.

A hearing officer on Thursday wouldn’t let Willie Wilson drop his challenge and recommended kicking Sales-Griffin off the Feb. 26 ballot — a move called “bulls—” by one Wilson adviser.

Hearing officer Christopher Agrella noted that Sales-Griffin is 2,342 signatures below the 12,500 minimum to get on the ballot. Agrella said he’d recommend that the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners deny Wilson’s motion to drop his challenge and therefore sustain Wilson’s objection. That would invalidate Sales-Griffin’s petitions and knock him off the ballot.

Former state Sen. Rickey Hendon, an adviser to Wilson’s campaign, was outraged.

“I told [Agrella] directly to his face we’re not going to accept it,” Hendon said.

But Election Board spokesman Jim Allen said Wilson’s withdrawal was an “absurdity” he’d never seen before.

He also said Agrella is following the rules.

“This deep into the process, it’s at the discretion of the board whether or not to grant or allow a withdrawal,” Allen said. “The objectors have dragged the candidate … and our staff through a process of going through petitions for four weeks. They’ve presented a mini-mountain of evidence that there are insufficient signatures and now — it’s not even the 11th hour, it’s like the 13th hour — they’re trying to pull the plug. How do we ignore everything that they’ve alleged and they’ve proved so far?”

The final decision is up to the board. Sales-Griffin, who came to the hearing with a camera crew and a team of supporters, said he had no complaints and thinks he still has a shot.

“I’m honestly grateful for all the people on the street that wanted to give me a shot, that wanted us to be on the ballot,” Sales-Griffin said. “You all deserve choices.”

Sales Griffin would be the 14th candidate on next month’s ballot.