Holderfield ballot challenge continued to Jan. 6 meeting

Holderfield ballot challenge continued to Jan. 6 meeting

URBANA — The request to remove a Republican candidate for Champaign County circuit court clerk has been continued to Jan. 6 by the county's three-member electoral board.

Steve Frank, a Fisher attorney, has asked the board to scrub Stephanie Holderfield's name from the March 20 primary election ballot because she signed a petition for a Democratic candidate for auditor, Ben Carlson. Frank contends that Holderfield broke state law by signing petitions for candidates for two separate political parties. Doing so, he claims, invalidates her nominating petitions.

The electoral board is made up of County Clerk Gordy Hulten, State's Attorney Julia Rietz and Sandy Romans, a supervisor in the office of current Circuit Clerk Linda Frank, who removed herself from the board. Linda Frank is the ex-wife of Steve Frank and also is publicly supporting Holderfield's primary election opponent, Rick Winkel.

During a short meeting Friday at the Champaign County Courthouse, the electoral board asked both sides in the case to prepare to argue the disputed issues, including Steve Frank's contention that Holderfield committed fraud by declaring herself a qualified voter of each party. The attorneys for both sides — Gerald Smith for Holderfield and Deborah Frank Feinen for Steve Frank — also were asked to prepare to argue Holderfield's intent in signing the petitions.

Holderfield has stated that soon after signing Carlson's petition, she realized she had made a mistake and asked him to "cross my name off."

"He evidently got sidetracked and didn't get it done," she said.

Carlson, however, released a statement Friday saying that "(n)o one asked us to remove any signature before filing our petitions."

And Feinen argued that the State Board of Elections would have allowed Holderfield to file a request with the county clerk to have her name stricken from Carlson's petitions. The electoral board did not consider her point.

"Perhaps this really is a question for evidence," Rietz said.

One issue the electoral board did address was Smith's request that Hulten and Romans recuse themselves from the case.

He asserted that Hulten "has a history of working with Mr. Rick Winkel, and actually was his campaign manager at one particular time (when Winkel ran for state Senate in 2002). Therefore we believe there is a strong bias and that that bias would affect" Hulten's impartiality.

Smith also requested that no one in either Hulten's or Linda Frank's office be allowed to serve on the electoral board, and that the two seats be filled by the sheriff and county treasurer.

Feinen objected to the recusal request, and Hulten, who chairs the electoral board, overruled Smith's request.

"Neither the statutes nor case law supports recusal for alleged bias by electoral board members," he said.

The electoral board is operating with a relatively short window, given that Hulten has to mail out ballots to voters overseas voters by Feb. 3, and is allowed to begin creating ballots on Jan. 13.

"We want to get this done right and fast, second," he said. "We're not trying to rush anybody, though."

Any decision by the electoral board can be appealed to the courts.


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Comeon wrote on December 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm

This is an act of cowardice to remove one's competition.


Why can't an individual, including a candidate, support who they feel are best qualified from any party for open positions, without fear of repercussion?


We need to get rid of the strictly party only election process. I know myself, I research each candidate for their ethics and morals, and do not vote down a party line. This means the primaries are worthless to me. Voting in the primary in a forced party line, would mean that I have to support 40% garbage candidates, just to support the few candidates that I do want to vote for.


Where is it written that party allegiance is more important than giving the voting public every opportunity to vote for a candidate that they feel would best be qualified for the job?


I have never met Miss Holderfield, or any of the candidates for that matter, but she met all of the requirements prior to the required deadline to become a qualified candidate, she should be allowed to run now.


What is truly happening here? Pretty obvious to anyone that pays any attention to local politics.


Linda Frank has been the Circuit Clerk for two decades, upon her 'retirement' she hand picked someone to take her place, Rick Winkel. Rumor has it, that she might be kept on as a paid advisor if Winkel gets the Circuit Clerk position. Now, the father of Linda's child, Steve Frank, is trying to rub out the competition for his ex-wife's choice of her replacement. Who do they get for an attorney for these shenanigans? They get their daughter, Deborah Frank Feinen, to act as an attorney against Miss Holderfield, the only other Rebulican running against Linda Frank's proposed apprentice.


Sounds reminiscent of something that would be happening on the Godfather!


Why would an educated town like Champaign-Urbana allow one family to hold such power over it?


What would our founding fathers think of a situation where an American can not support ANY individual that they feel is best qualified for a job, regardless of nonsense party rules?


It concerns me that Mr. Winkel, through his affiliation with people that would stoop to such tactics to influence an election before it happens, may not be the best candidate for the position.


It is too early for me to have researched the candidates in much detail yet, but this certainly puts a black eye on the Winkel campaign, and makes me wonder what kind of unethical events happened prior to now?

Local Yocal wrote on December 17, 2011 at 2:12 pm
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Whoa, whoa, whoa, Comeon, ethics and Champaign County politics in the same sentence? This situation is a classic for Champaign County Politics.

Let's review: Linda Frank retires and endorses Rick Winkel. Holderfield is running against Winkel. Gordy Hulten, a former Winkel campaign manager, is to gauge Holderfield's elgibility to run against Winkel. Julia Rietz, whose job as state's attorney depends on the management, accuracy, and security of paperwork her office files, is to gauge the elgibility of who can be a candidate for circuit clerk. Sandy Romans, the only honest one of the bunch, is a long-time loyal Linda Frank employee; and recognizes what the other two "experts" won't admit to, that she has a conflict of interest regarding Linda Frank's preferences. None on this electoral review board should be deciding who gets to be a candidate for circuit clerk. They all have a conflict of interest in various ways.

To be fair, their conflict wasn't intentional, for who could foresee the allignment of all these stars? You couldn't write this stuff. But if the Illini Pundit were still alive, he sure would be taking them to task for their arrogance to insist they are qualified to decide Holderfield's elgibility.  The appearance of a conflict of interest is to be equally avoided in an election, no matter what loophole some Supreme Court judge created in corrupt Illinois. But selling your soul is nothing new in Champaign County politics. Two on the review board know this well.




johnny wrote on December 17, 2011 at 9:12 pm

At least Hulten basically admitted bias.

Local Yocal wrote on December 18, 2011 at 9:12 am
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And that's sufficient? Such an admission should mean you're disqualified from making the decision. You can bet if Hulten's candidacy hung in the balance by a reviewer who admitted such a bias, he would be all whining to Tom Kacich. I guess his loyalty to ol' Rick and his pride of holding office has blinded him to all this- with the added rationalization, "We don't have time to do the right thing." (recuse)

johnny wrote on December 18, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Of course that's not sufficient.  It's just slightly more than I'd expected.

Vinny wrote on December 26, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Really...? The candidate for the County Circuit Court Clerk signs something she is not supposed to... isn't that a problem? Why would she just sign something without understanding the ramifications? Poor decision for someone who will be a KEEPER of RECORDS.

Soon after she realizes the mistake and then asked him to "cross my name off."

"He evidently got sidetracked and didn't get it done," she said.

Don't you think that the candidate for County Circuit Court Clerk would take responsibility for HER actions. I guess it was someone else's fault.

The summary for the County Circuit Court Clerk's Job Description states: "Officer of the court whose primary statutory responsibility is to serve as the keeper of all court records and to collect and disburse all court related monies."

This candidate signs something, retracts it, but doesn't take the responsibility to act... that doesn't exemplify the qualities needed for the position of County Circuit Court Clerk... in my humble opinion.

Do Republicans really want Stephanie Holderfield representing them?


Political Observer wrote on January 05, 2012 at 3:01 pm

The comments above are an interesting beginning toward lifting the garbage-can lid off the many levels of conflict-of-interest and outright corruption that have been largely ignored by the local media during the Winkel-Holderfield Primary Ballot Spat.  But, of course, there’s so much more below the surface that has yet to be revealed (or that may never be revealed), and that’s what gives this Kangaroo-Court Catfight the potential of becoming a real blockbuster spectacle in itself… So, let’s start popping the popcorn and getting ready for what’s about to unfold before us!

There’s too many obvious points for one post alone, so let’s number each point, and take them under consideration one at a time (in no particular order):

1.  For example, suppose we were to take a little closer look at the relation between Winkel’s Attorney, Deborah Frank Feinen, and the acting election judge, Appointed County Clerk Gordy Hulten.  The News-Gazette reported November 29th that

“Holderfield filed her own petitions; Winkel's were filed by Champaign City Council member Deborah Frank Feinen, who also filed the petitions for fellow Republicans Gordy Hulten for county clerk, John Farney for auditor, Duane Northrup for coroner and Barbara Frasca for recorder of deeds."

It’s good to know that Ms. Feinen is so close not only to her client Winkel but also to the acting judge Gordy Hulten that she takes care of turning in the nominating positions for both of them! What a cosy relationship there appears to be among the three!  So, was it Acting County Clerk Gordy Hulten who noticed Stephanie Holderfield’s signature on Ben Carlson’s Democratic petition (for a totally different office altogether), and tipped off his good friends Winkel and Feinen about the “Good News?”  Who were the persons who gathered signatures for the petitions of Gordy Hulten and Ms. Feinen?  Is there even more evidence for a cosy relationship between “Judge” Hulten and Ms. Feinen there?  (Is the News-Gazette willing to take a look at the petitions to see who obtained the signatures, or is there a “hands-off” policy when it comes to writing about Hulten’s long questionable background and experience in highly-partisan, dirty-tricks politics?)

2.  And, of course, back in 2010 when Hulten became interested in filling a vacant seat on the “non-partisan” Champaign City Council (and when he was telling everyone that being a Council member wasn’t just a passing interest or whim for him – which, of course, it indeed turned out to be!), it was Deborah Frank Feinen who was the Council Member who nominated him, championed his cause and ultimately convinced the other members of the Council to appoint him to the vacant seat, over two much-less-partisan, eminently-qualified candidates.  The News-Gazette wrote at the time:

“In selecting Hulten, council members passed over two equally qualified applicants – former Deputy Fire Chief Tim Wild and health care consultant Cathy Emanuel. Both are eminently qualified, and it's our hope they retain an interest in local elective or appointed office.”  [News-Gazette, 4-23-10]


Vinny wrote on January 15, 2012 at 10:01 am

Why did she sign a Democratic Petition?