URBANA — Jerommie Smith has officially given up his effort to run as an independent candidate for Champaign County sheriff, and instead will run a write-in campaign this fall.
Smith notified Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden Thursday morning that he wanted to withdraw his name from the Nov. 2 general election ballot.
"This in no way precludes myself from running as a write in candidate in the November 2nd election," Smith wrote to Shelden.
And Deborah Frank Feinen, representing Stephen Frank who had challenged Smith’s candidacy petitions, withdrew the challenge.
So a Thursday afternoon hearing of Champaign County’s three-member electoral board, scheduled to consider the validity of Smith’s petitions, was canceled.
Smith, a Sidney businessman and former sheriff’s deputy, had called an end to a review of his petitions Wednesday. During the review, which occurred all day Tuesday and much of Wednesday morning, representatives of his campaign and of Frank agreed that more than 500 of the signatures were invalid.
Unofficially, Shelden said, 559 invalid signatures were found.
Frank, a longtime friend and former law partner of incumbent Sheriff Dan Walsh, needed to find at least 501 invalid signatures to knock Smith off the ballot.
"I just said that we’re going to stop the tallying," Smith said Wednesday after the review of petition signatures ended.
Most of the signatures were invalid, he said, because the signers were registered at another address.
"The thing that I saw was that about 80 percent still were registered voters in Champaign County," Smith said. "They just had different addresses. They got disqualified because their address was incorrect. That’s basically what held us down."
The county’s election board will meet this afternoon to act on Franks’ challenge to Smith’s petitions.
"The numbers speak, don’t get me wrong," Smith said. "And yes, they have the right to challenge. Do I wish the voters had a chance to vote? Yes I do. We just have to do a different strategy and go about it a different way."
He noted that he and supporters had collected about 4,700 signatures on his petitions.
"But 4,000 people spoke. And that’s a good start. It gave me a chance to get in front of 4,000 people who now know my name," Smith said.
He said he doesn’t know when he’ll begin the write-in campaign.
"My daughters are ready for Daddy to be home for a while," he said. "We’ll take a little break from this and then take a stab at it."
The process of reviewing his petitions was fair, Smith said, although he said he "had mixed emotions" about squaring off against Frank.
He said Frank had represented him 10 years ago in a divorce and bankruptcy. Frank said he had "no recollection" of it.
"If you’re really going to challenge petitions and you have party people behind you, why do you find someone who was my representative attorney? If anything ever
comes up with the bankruptcy or something, I have to go back to him and then what?" Smith said.
But Frank said he didn’t remember representing Smith.
"It doesn’t ring any bell with me," he said.
The Champaign County Circuit Clerk’s website said Smith was represented in the 2000 divorce case by Daniel Walsh — the man he hopes to unseat as sheriff.