The drive to keep Victor Rowans from running for alderman of the 27th Ward is like a vampire: it rises from the dead every time he drives a stake through its heart.
Rowans, a CTA bus driver, was kicked off the ballot in 2003 for failing to properly number his petitions. This year he discovered just in time that he’d been circulating the wrong kind of form. Nevertheless he succeeded in collecting 1,615 signatures (he only needed 147), correctly filled out his petitions, filed on time, and started campaigning against Alderman Walter Burnett.
But Marvin Burnett, the alderman’s brother, challenged Rowans’s nominating petitions, alleging that not enough of his signatures were valid. On January 2 the case came before the Chicago Board of Elections, and hearing officer William Jones looked over several hundred signatures on Rowans’s petitions before deciding that “continuing the record examination would only put the candidate further over the minimum requirement.” He recommended that Rowans be placed on the ballot.
Marvin Burnett appealed, bringing in affidavits from about 40 residents who said they’d never signed the petitions. Rowans countered by arguing that a some of the complainants weren’t the same people who had signed. On January 11 Jones again decided in his favor, ruling that Burnett “has failed to provide a pattern of fraud by clear and convincing evidence.”
Burnett appealed again, and yesterday the case came before the elections board. After hearing Burnett’s lawyer, Michael Kasper the board sent the matter back to Jones for a final review. So for a fourth time Rowans will have to defend his petitions. “Keep in mind, I’m doing this by myself,” he says. “I can’t afford a lawyer.”
Unfortunately for Rowans, he’s up against one of the masters of the election-law game in Kasper, who generally plies his trade knocking off independents challenging legislative allies of house speaker Michael Madigan. He says he has a few legal salvos ready to fire at Rowans, and he’s confident his client will prevail.
Rowans thinks the system’s madness, and he’s not alone. When a hearing officer finally suspended a review of Mayor Daley’s nominating petitions, Daley campaign manager Terry Peterson told reporters, “It’s time that we stop wasting taxpayers’ money and end this frivolous objection to the petitions.”
Rowans says he couldn’t have expressed it better himself.