SPRINGFIELD – A U.S. Senate primary candidate was booted from the GOP ballot last week, leaving two on the ballot in the March 15th election – incumbent Mark Kirk and challenger James Marter.
When Monee resident George Pearson saw the name "Elizabeth Pahlke" listed as a GOP candidate from Illinois for U.S. Senate, he was surprised. He quickly remembered Pahlke as an Independent candidate in the 2nd Congressional District special election when it was held to replace former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
"I couldn't believe she could possibly be a third candidate along with Mark Kirk and James Marter on the 2016 GOP primary ballot," he said.
But there it was on the State Board of Elections website – Pahlke's name.
Pearson said he'd heard about the condition of Pahlke's petitions – how she attached twigs, grass and bird droppings along with irrational ramblings to her petitions.
"I kept waiting for someone from the Illinois Republican Party or the Kirk campaign to file an objection, and nothing happened. Day after day went by, and no one seemed interested," Pearson said.
Before the deadline passed on December 7th, Pearson sought the legal counsel of Will County GOP Chairman Ed Ronkowski, who helped him file the required paperwork.
Indeed, the petitions Pahlke filed were in such a state that the State Board of Elections reportedly was forced to handle them with special care. The Board considered the dried mixture of mud and bird feces to be hazardous to their staff's health. Personnel donned surgical gloves and full facial protection as they handled Pahlke's petitions, and then stored them in a protected area away from other petitions.
The pages that did not have the twigs, grass or mud attached added up to a questionable 2500 signatures, half of the minimum number required to get on the ballot for the office of U.S. Senate.
Still, unless a registered Illinois voter was to file an official objection to the candidate's petitions, the State Board of Elections would have had no recourse but to allow Pahlke on the ballot.
Kirk campaign manager Kevin Artl told Illinois Review that thesir campaign didn't object to Pahlke's petitions because they were too busy responding to Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth's national security policies.
"In response to your … question, we are strategically applying our resources to highlight the reckless national security policies being advocated by Rep. Duckworth, including her support of allowing in 200,000 Syrian refugees that our own national security leaders admit cannot be vetted properly," Artl said.
But according to George Pearson, that wasn't the whole story.
"My legal counsel was contacted by the Kirk campaign and he was asked to ask me to drop the objection," Pearson said. Pearson said it was very clear that the Kirk campaign wanted three names on the GOP primary ballot.
A two-on-one primary race would have a better chance of splitting the strong anti-Kirk sentiment votes among the IL GOP base, especially Downstate. It would be even better for Kirk if the third candidate had a female name with no money or notoriety to introduce herself to Downstate voters.
During the course of the Board of Elections hearings starting in December, Pearson said he was shocked at Candidate Pahlke's public behavior.
A veteran law enforcement officer, Pearson is used to taking copious notes following an incident. He shared with Illinois Review what he noted to himself during an election board public hearing December 9th that started at 10:30 am.
Pahlke interrupted the hearing numerous times with comments audible to the board members and all in the room, Pearson reported.
"Can we get on with these cases, I have lunch," Pahlke said to the board. "I need to eat or I'll get sick."
When the meeting didn't move as quickly as she thought it should, she spoke up again.
"Excuse me, can I reschedule? I have a meeting," she said. Then she pushed harder. "That's why our country is falling. A bunch of old men not having sex, (laughing) unable to express themselves. You are labeled correctly the 'Bored' of Elections."
After the Board decided to continue considering Pearson's objections, Pahlke was escorted from the room by State Police when the Board secretary asked her to leave, Pearson said.
On January 7th, when the board met again, the Pearson vs Pahlke case was the first on the docket, and the board unanimously sustained Pearson's objections.
The board was prepared with the paperwork to immediately take Pahlke off the ballot.
Pearson said the effort was worthwhile, when he checked and found that in 2013, Pahlke got three percent of the GOP primary voters' support in the 2nd CD Special election. Her name on the ballot could have become a big embarrassment to the Kirk people and the IL GOP.
"I remembered her being disruptive when she spoke at the Plainfield Township GOP," Pearson said. "I just couldn't ignore the situation."
Pearson said he would be supporting James Marter for U.S. Senate in the March 15th primary.