Sheriff candidate formally withdraws name from ballot, switches focus to write-in campaign

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.

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0331Gunner wrote on July 08, 2010 at 1:07 pm

So the signatures of registered voters were discounted because the person may have moved since initially registering to vote? But they were registered voters in Champaign County? Are you kidding me?

Nice work Champaign County Republicans. In a previous comment I stated I would not vote for another local Republican candidate. Allow me to amend that comment, I will no no longer support the Champaign County Republicans through monetary donations, I will not walk precincts for them, I will not vote for and I will actively work against their local candidates. The Republican Party used to support and fight for our democratic process. It is incredible that they have actively fought against democracy. How democratic is an unopposed election? Jason Barrickman and the rest of the local party should be ashamed of themselves.

Daxndata wrote on July 08, 2010 at 4:07 pm

You got it Gunner! They knew that Walsh could not win if there were another name on the ballot, so they found a way to fix that. Too bad Walsh can't win a competitive election. Too bad he gets to keep his job by default and not excellence.

peabody wrote on July 08, 2010 at 4:07 pm

The funny thing is that Walsh probably would have scrubbed the floor with Smith in November had the local Republican machine just left it alone. Now we've got a David vs. Goliath story brewing here and Walsh is the guy who snuffed the democratic process. Walsh will probably still win but I hope he sweats a little. Basically I'm hoping that all politicians Republican and Democrat alike have their day of reckoning in the fall.

bluegrass wrote on July 08, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Why are posters below blaming Walsh and the republican party? If you're upset that Smith is out, perhaps you should have helped him gather more signatures. You can also help out with his big write in campaign.

chuckie22 wrote on July 08, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Get more signatures? The republican party could not do what he did in 7 weeks. I have attended signature dinners in the past and this signature acomplishment is a show of people wanting choice. As the other post mentioned, they sure stirred up a pot they should have left alone. The voters now have an excuse to vote him out.
The current good old boys must have somthing to hide to fight that hard. I am looking at all of these articles and it seems that Walsh has this team of attorneys and colleagues, why are they scared of one man?

skiparoo wrote on July 10, 2010 at 11:07 am

over the past two decades champaign county has become nazi-like. with steigman, difanis, piland, rietz and walsh running everything without any oversight. now they have eliminated grand juries for more selective control of our citizens. they should be removed from office for criminal activities including bribery. that would free up some funds for reinstatement of our grand juries at a total cost of 4000 per year. are you kidding me?

Jsmith68 wrote on July 11, 2010 at 1:07 pm

The most worrisome thing here is the belief that the Sheriff's Office is about politics. Come on people. Vote for the best guy to run the department and be a law enforcement officer. It's a shame that someone can from car salesman to Sheriff only needed the most votes. Republican/Democrat....makes no difference. Vote for the best person you believe will run this law enforcement office best. Forget politics.