Decision sets stage for Holderfield-Winkel showdown in primary

Decision sets stage for Holderfield-Winkel showdown in primary

URBANA — Champaign County's electoral board voted unanimously Friday to keep Stephanie Holderfield's name on the March 20 Republican primary election ballot, making it more likely there will be an intraparty showdown with former Sen. Rick Winkel over the office of circuit court clerk.

Although the electoral board's decision can be appealed to the circuit court, time is running short. The first primary election ballots — to overseas and military voters — must go in the mail by Feb. 3, according to Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten, who also is chair of the electoral board.

Asked if a final court decision on the case could be reached that quickly, Deborah Frank Feinen, who represented her father Steve Frank in trying to remove Holderfield from the ballot, said, "Probably not, although we may have a circuit court ruling by then. But I don't know if we're going to appeal."

Frank sought to toss Holderfield, currently a county board member from Mahomet, off the ballot because she had signed a petition for Ben Carlson, a Democratic candidate for county auditor. Frank claimed that by signing a Democrat's petition, Holderfield invalidated her own candidacy as a Republican.

But the electoral board, citing a 1984 state appellate court decision, ruled that the first petition Holderfield signed — one for a number of countywide Republican candidates, including Hulten — is valid and that any subsequent petition signatures are invalid.

Holderfield signed the Republican candidates' petition on Sept. 11 and Carlson's on either Oct. 8 or 22.

"The September 11th signature trumps the October 8th or 22nd signature," said State's Attorney Julia Rietz, another electoral board member. "And when Stephanie Holderfield declared herself to be a Republican on September 11th, she was declaring to be a Republican."

The third electoral board member, Sandy Romans, a supervisor in the circuit clerk's office, did not comment on the case but voted to keep Holderfield on the ballot.

Rietz also said the board needed to recognize court rulings in favor of offering voters a choice, saying that disqualifying Holderfield "would unreasonably restrict people's right to endorse and nominate candidates" they support.

"I find it very important to look at the fact that 315 people signed a petition for Stephanie Holderfield to be on the ballot, and that process is important," she said. "In this case if we're not mindful of that then we won't be mindful of qualified voters in the Republican Party who signed her nominating petitions."

Hulten, however, chided Holderfield for allowing her petitions to be signed by some of the same Democrats who signed Carlson's petitions. Electoral board members said at least five people signed both candidate's petitions.

"I think it's absolutely clear that you violated the statute," Hulten told Holderfield. "The brazenness of it bothers me."

Hulten asserted that Holderfield sought Democratic petition-signers "knowingly, willingly and wantonly."

"The fact that you sought signatures with people from the opposite political party in the same room from the same people defies common sense to me, and it greatly disturbs me that it was done and that it was doe so cavalierly," Hulten said. "

Holderfield, however, said she was "thrilled" with the decision.

"I think we had a very good, substantive case to support the fact that I had no intention of harming the electoral process. That wasn't my goal," she said. "I've been campaigning since before Christmas. This just gives me the opportunity to hit it even harder."

Winkel was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon.

The current circuit court clerk — Linda Frank, who is the ex-wife of Steve Frank and mother of Deborah Frank Feinen — is not running for another term.

During Friday's electoral board hearing, held at the Champaign County Courthouse, Hulten said Champaign County "is a big small town and politically it's an even smaller town." Hulten managed Winkel's last election campaign for the state Senate, Romans is an assistant to Frank and Rietz is a member of the local Democrats' central committee.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on January 07, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Ever wonder why we are stuck with two political parties?  Ever wonder why so many politicians are attorneys?   Ever wonder why people run for political office?   Maybe, we only need two political parties.  Maybe, attorneys are smarter than everyone else.   Maybe, people run for political office to be a Public Servant.   Yeah, maybe...................    Mr. Frank seems to be involved with disputing minute legalities in the upcoming election as well as he did in previous elections.  "Cat's Paw" maybe inaccurate; but it does come to mind.

EdRyan wrote on January 07, 2012 at 1:01 pm

You can't swing a cat without hitting a lawyer.  So many of them around they have to do something to stir up work.

We could use a few more political parties.  Unfortunately, the Institutionalized Democrat-Republican Party has siezed control of the entire politcal apparatus.  Sort of like the old PRI of Mexico.  Something needs be done to break their monopoly grip on the political system.


Political Observer wrote on January 08, 2012 at 3:01 am

Hulten mentioned during the proceedings that he was conducting the case in accord with Open Meetings Procedures, so perhaps an enterprising media organization could at least take it upon itself to file a request for an audio copy (or transcript) of the proceedings that could be made available to the public, along with the case file of the documents that were distributed to the attorneys and the panel of judges. (The affidavits filed by Stephanie and Todd Holderfield and the statement submitted by Holderfield’s attorney, Gerald W. Smith, have already been posted online by Eric Bussell at, so that‘s at least a good starting point.)

Political Observer wrote on January 08, 2012 at 3:01 am

There was some discussion during these proceedings of the “intent” involved in Stephanie Holderfield‘s actions, and how it pertained to the case, but what I believe many might find of even more interest would be a more-detailed examination by the media of the “intent” of Steve Frank and Deborah Frank Feinen in filing this case, along with a clearer depiction of the role played in the case by Mr. Hulten, over and above his role in conducting the hearing. (Is there some kind of a media blackout on asking questions like this?)

There are too many questions of the various actors’ intentions to raise here for a single post alone, so let’s consider just a couple of obvious ones here initially:

1. For example, suppose we were to take a little closer look at the relation between Attorney Deborah Frank Feinen and the acting electoral commission judge, Appointed Champaign 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 friend Rick Winkel (who would benefit from not having to face Stephanie Holderfield in a Republican primary next March) but also to the acting electoral comission judge Gordy Hulten that she took 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? Certainly there‘s been little discussion in the media about how a person who once ran the website can somehow shed his past and function as an unbiased Appointed Champaign County Clerk.)

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]

Well, how are people going to retain an interest in local elective or appointed office, after they’ve been passed over in the decision process for filling a supposedly “non-partisan” Champaign City Council position, so that it could be given instead to Mr. IlliniPundit, Gordy Hulten, who continues to boast on his various bio-sketches that he’s had a hand in running “hundreds” of political campaigns (and who apparently only wanted to use the City Council position as a stepping stone along the way to getting appointed to the position of Acting Champaign County Clerk)?

areader wrote on January 08, 2012 at 7:01 am

Very interesting!  I think someone has some questions which need to be answered!