The contentious 35th Ward aldermanic runoff is moving from the streets to the hearing room.

On Tuesday lawyers for alderman Rey Colon will square off against lawyers for Vilma Colom, his challenger, in a legal sideshow.

Colon has filed a complaint with the Illinois State Board of Elections accusing Colom of being behind the slick attack flyers mailed out the past few weeks accusing him of a host of crimes. Colom has denied having any involvement with them.

Hovering over this legal fight is the most powerful politician in the area: 33rd Ward alderman Dick Mell. Colon’s lawyer is Rich Means, an election-law expert who’s had a bitter rivalry with Mell for years. Colom’s represented by Frank Avila, who’s close to Mell in part because Mell was the only northwest-side alderman who supported Avila’s father in his bid for a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

Colom, the former 35th Ward alderman who Colon ousted in 2003, is Mell’s protege. He slated her to run for alderman in 1995, after the 35th was redrawn to include precincts from his old 33rd Ward. He strongly backed her when she defeated Colon in 1999. Four years ago Colom lost in part because Mell was unable to send in his usual battalion of precinct workers. 

In that campaign Mell was preoccupied with a campaign against Deb Gordils, a political unknown. Mell had tried to knock Gordils off of the ballot by challenging the validity of her nominating petitions. But Gordils survived the challenge, thanks to the legal work of–you guessed it–Means.

Now, of course, Mell has no race to divert his attention–he ran unopposed in the February 27 municipal election–and he’s been bringing in troops and money to exact his revenge on Colon.