This morning the dailies reported that supporters of William “Dock” Walls have challenged the ballot petitions submitted by Mayor Daley’s campaign. Walls and his backers charge that forgeries and the names of unregistered voters were illegally included among the 24,000-plus signatures the Daley campaign submitted to the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago. “I don’t expect Daley to stay on the ballot,” Walls proclaimed to the Sun-Times. But since only 12,500 signatures are needed to run for mayor, the Walls team will have to show that nearly half of the Daley signatures don’t count. 

As followers of local politics know, the petition challenge process is part of the election cycle in Chicago. This time, challenges have been filed in 40 of the 50 races (47 of 50 aldermen have opponents, as do the mayor, city clerk, and city treasurer). 

Ballot challenges are a big reason that it’s hard for opponents to compete against incumbents in municipal elections. Combing through the signatures on ballot petitions takes lots of time and, if done comprehensively, lots of people. And incumbents generally have more experienced and motivated volunteers to mobilize for the challenge work, since they can turn to their own staffs, families, and others whose employment future may depend on a successful reelection effort. 

Call it friends helping friends or call it patronage, but of the 93 people who filed petition challenges by yesterday’s deadline, 21 had names that also appear on the city payroll, including nine people listed as staffers for aldermen or City Council committees. Not one of the city workers was involved in a challenge to a sitting official. 

Interestingly, one of the city workers is a guy named Ricardo Munoz, who’s challenged the petitions of Raul Molina, the lone opponent to 33rd Ward fixture Richard Mell, a  longtime machine guy and Daley loyalist. Current 22nd Ward alderman Ricardo Munoz said it’s not him. “There are eight Ricardo Munozes registered to vote in the city of Chicago, and my son makes nine of us,” the alderman said. Four of them, including the alderman and his son, live within a few blocks of 30th and Lawndale. “One of the others is a precinct captain in the 33rd Ward, and it’s caused me all kinds of trouble because he’s also a city worker,”  the alderman said. The petition-challenging Ricardo Munoz works in the city’s water department and, the alderman says with some exasperation, is twice his size.

On the opponents’ side, Richard Barnett, a west-side activist who was a key member of the Harold Washington campaigns, filed challenges against mayoral longshots Syron M. Smith and Ziff Anthony Sistrunk. Barnett is reportedly working for Dorothy Brown—not Walls, who likes to remind people that he was a Washington aide.