SPRINGFIELD — Police responded to the state election board Friday after a former state senator representing Democrat Tio Hardiman’s gubernatorial campaign allegedly threatened the job of a top election staffer refereeing Gov. Pat Quinn’s effort to knock Hardiman from the March primary ballot.
Hardiman, meanwhile, denied any threats were made bystate Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, on his behalf to necessitate the Springfield police to be called. Hardiman said Friday that he is the victim of “machine politics.”
Rupert Borgsmiller, executive director of the State Board of Elections, requested Springfield police after a series of confrontations initiated by Hendon with the board’s general counsel, Steve Sandvoss, about the validity of signatures on some of Hardiman’s nominating petitions.
“It just got very contentious,” Borgsmiller told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Staff was rather uncomfortable with the tone of some of the give-and-take.”
Borgsmiller said on one occasion Hendon could be heard by staff as he talked loudly on the phone, saying he would go after Sandvoss’ job because of the way decisions were being made involving Hardiman’s signatures.
“This had been going on all day [Thursday]. There was back and forth all day with concerns about the process in place, and finally, [Thursday] evening, it got to the point where it boiled over. I talked to the staff, and I made decision last night that we need to call in the police,” Borgsmiller said. “This is something for the staff and for their mental frame of mind that I needed to do.”
No arrests were made in the confrontation, which was first reported by the Capitol Fax political blog. Hardiman denied any improper actions were made by Hendon, who is a campaign consultant overseeing his bid to fend off the Quinn challenge to his nominating petitions.
“There were no threats made,” Hardiman, who is vying to become the state’s first African-American governor, told the Sun-Times.
“In our opinion, they’re down there trying to take our names. We can’t allow them to take names that are good names,” he said. “The people are registered to vote. They printed and signed their names, and their addresses are proper.”
Hardiman, the former director of the anti-violence group CeaseFire, submitted roughly 9,400 signatures on his nominating petitions. The names of 5,000 registered voters must exist on those petitions in order to remain on the March 18 primary ballot for governor.
State election authorities spent all day Thursday and much of the day Friday poring over his petitions and the petitions of Quinn, which Hardiman challenged. (Borgsmiller said a hearing officer suspended the challenge of Quinn’s petitions because it was clear he would meet the 5,000-signature threshold.)
“Nobody is going to sit back and take 24 names out of 25 names on my petitions,” Hardiman said. “That’s not right, OK? This is really the norm with machine politics in Illinois. I’m going up against machine politics.”
As an example, Borgsmiller said some signatures in question on Hardiman’s petitions contained names of residents and their street addresses but not the city they lived in, as required. In other instances, duplicate names were included with the same address, and those names were stricken.
“He just wasn’t happy,” Borgsmiller said of Hendon. “He felt that it was rigged against him. I feel we have a very professional staff. I feel our staff does a very good job. Our staff does not go in with any bias with one way or another.”
Quoted Friday by Capitol Fax publisher and Sun-Times columnist Rich Miller, Hendon described the election panel as “the most corrupt Board of elections in the universe.” And, according to Miller, Hendon “admitted to telling Director Borgsmiller that he would do whatever he could to keep him from being reappointed to his job,” a storyline slightly different than what Borgsmiller told the Sun-Times.
Hendon, who abruptly resigned from the state Senate in February 2011, could not be reached by the Sun-Times Friday.
Known for his flamboyantly colorful suits and nicknamed “Hollywood,” Hendon once got into a shoving match with then-state Sen. Barack Obama in the Illinois Senate in 2002 and, later, arranged for a series of state grants that were being investigated by a federal grand jury. No charges have arisen from 2010 subpoenas to several state agencies.
In 2010, Hendon was with Quinn and was forced to backtrack from statements in which he called GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady “an idiotic, racist, sexist, homophobic person” while introducing the governor at a campaign event. Quinn disavowed Hendon’s attack on the Bloomington state senator.