Holderfield plans to back party, may seek election reform

CHAMPAIGN — Disappointed again in her quest to become the Republican nominee for Champaign County circuit court clerk, Stephanie Holderfield said Friday that she plans to support the GOP ticket this fall and to remain a Republican.

But she avoided saying whether she would challenge the decision that kept her from the Republican nomination. Holderfield finished second in the March 20 Republican primary election to former state Sen. Rick Winkel, who had already withdrawn from the race.

Republican precinct committeemen Thursday night chose Katie Blakeman of Champaign to be GOP nominee for circuit court clerk in the November general election. Holderfield, a county board member from Mahomet, finished second. The other candidates for the appointment, Sam Anderson and Alexander Ruggieri, received no votes.

"While I am disappointed, I do accept the decision of the precinct committeemen," Holderfield said. "I do look forward to remaining politically active and I plan to concentrate on serving my constituents on the Champaign County Board."

But she declined to say whether or not she would file a lawsuit challenging state election laws or their interpretation by County Clerk Gordy Hulten and State's Attorney Julia Rietz. Holderfield's attorney, Mark Hewitt, had suggested last month that any votes for Winkel should not have been counted.

"I would like to know why everyone is so concerned with that? I truly am intrigued why people have fixated on that question," Holderfield said. "I don't understand why people are so focused and fixated on what my decision would be. I was advised to have an attorney to help me sift through this extraordinarily difficult issue.

"If I do anything, it will be to fight a good fight against changing some of these very, very vague statutes in election law. If I need to shout from the rooftop, we need election law reform. That's what I'm more focused on, shining a bright light on the vagueness of election laws. Voters should be upset with no clear-cut answer. That's what I have been focused on, not whether there's going to be a lawsuit, but why we have such vague statutes."

Holderfield called Blakeman "very, very sweet" and said she was not angry with her.

"I've known Katie a long time," she said.

Weeks ago, Holderfield said she believed she would have the support of 75 percent of the precinct committeemen (she ended up with votes from 30 of 70 voting; six others were absent, and party treasurer Habeeb Habeeb, who ran the meeting, abstained).

Asked whether she thought she had been double-crossed by some of the committeemen, Holderfield said, "I will leave them to answer that question."

Blakeman, meanwhile, said she would concentrate on fundraising. Her Democratic opponent in the fall election, Barbara Wysocki, has name recognition from her time on the county board, including a term as chairwoman.

Wysocki has raised more than $4,600 this year and reported having $2,880 on hand as of March 31.

Blakeman has been a development officer at the University of Illinois, and told committeemen she has raised more than $2.5 million in that position.

"That's what I've been doing for the last five years at the university, and I know there are a lot of people in this room tonight who I'll be calling, asking them to go to coffee and asking them for money," she said.

Asked how she would differentiate herself from Wysocki, Blakeman said she would stress her qualifications for the $96,570 a year position.

"My background as a qualified information professional and having customer service experience, management experience and budget experience are all things that would qualify me for the position," she said, noting that Wysocki "very nearly lost her primary to someone who was well qualified for the job (she beat Lori Hansen by 20 votes) and so I think that having a candidate who is qualified in that way would be one of the ways to beat her in the general election."

Blakeman promised to "run a positive, professional and winning campaign that will reflect well on all of the other candidates as well as the Champaign County Republican Party."

Anderson, a Champaign attorney and another applicant for the GOP nomination, said after the meeting that she had been asked about running for state's attorney. So far there is no Republican opposition to incumbent Julia Rietz.

"The state's attorney's race was brought up," she said, "but it deserves a lot of thought before entering that race."

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wayward wrote on April 14, 2012 at 8:04 am

"My background as a qualified information professional and having customer service experience, management experience and budget experience are all things that would qualify me for the position," she said, noting that Wysocki "very nearly lost her primary to someone who was well qualified for the job (she beat Lori Hansen by 20 votes) and so I think that having a candidate who is qualified in that way would be one of the ways to beat her in the general election."

Hey, at least Wysocki and Hansen actually ran in their party's primary and gave voters a choice.

rsp wrote on April 14, 2012 at 10:04 am

And here's a good quote from Anderson:

"The state's attorney's race was brought up," she said, "but it deserves a lot of thought before entering that race."

These are just "gifts" from the party. A tight little group that keeps asking favored people to occupy spots till they move on to better spots. Linda Frank offered her spot to Rick Winkel. He said yes. Even though he had a job at the U of I. He pulled out of the race to stay at the U of I. 

wayward wrote on April 14, 2012 at 10:04 am

I'm not sure how much of a "gift" being slated for State's Attorney would be for Anderson.  Rietz has been in office for 2 terms with no major screw-ups, and I think she'd be a tough incumbent to beat.

Dann001 wrote on April 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Let me get this straight.....Rick Winkel wants to run for another elected position after failing to fulfill his obligation to voters who put him in the state senate some years back. He's put on the ballot and then pulls out, surprise! Now the "Lemmings" of Champaign County give him the majority of votes, even though he will not run or serve? Not to be outdone, the "Republican Guard" of precinct commiteemen completely ignore the voter's wishes and appoint someone other than the runner-up in the election. I'm so glad I moved away from Sheldon County! Sue 'em Stephanie!

alabaster jones 71 wrote on April 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm
Profile Picture

Does Holderfield have no shame?  If I lost an election to someone who wasn't even running, I probably wouldn't keep bringing it up, much less try to reclaim the nomination after voters had already rejected me for it.  She should accept her humiliating primary defeat and accept the embarassment.

areader wrote on April 14, 2012 at 4:04 pm

And you should be embarrassed by YOUR comment!  It's about time someone stood up and took a stand against the Republican "committee" hot-shots.  They got what they wanted and did it in such a way that was slick and slimy.  If you read my previous comments, I've used that term before!  The voters should be deciding who is voted in and NOT a group of people who want the power to control voters' so-called choices!  What an embarrassment to the Republican Party! 

johnny wrote on April 14, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Legally, she won.  Pay attention.

squeaky wrote on April 14, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Embarrassing

fedupwithit wrote on April 14, 2012 at 6:04 pm

This entire situation is a disgrace. I started hearing about Mr. Habeeb several months ago in the local political circles, I started hearing Stevie Jay refer to him as a "Great American". I began to think that maybe this was someone that could come in and give the local GOP a boost. I thought this was a local vocal businessman with strong values like Mark Thompson however I now must call Mr. Thompson and apologize to him for comparing him to Mr. Habeeb because Mr. Habeeb you are a disgrace and an embarrasment to anyone who still has the nerve to identify themselves as a Champaign County Republican. Next time I hear Stevie Jay have the audacity to call you an American I will call and correct him because what you have perpetrated is the most unamerican injustice I have ever seen in this county.  But unfortunately it does not end with Mr. Habeeb, each and every precinct committeman that went along with this travesty should be ashamed as well. Mr Hulton I would vote for anyone and I mean anyone before i would cast my vote for you. Run a cockroach, an actuall cockroach against Mr. Hulton and I will vote for it. Each and every one of you have discounted thousands of voters in this county and given the chance to someone who did not even want to be involved before it could be given to her. I dont care for Stephanie but she at least had the moxy to fill out petitions, get the signatures, pound the pavement and run. No we are going to team up with the devil and name someone that couldnt care less a month ago. Shame Shame Shame. I know politics are dirty but you people are slimy. I have been a republican voting citizen of Champaign County for 18 years. I have never missed an election no matter how small or insignificant. I am sad to say I will now abstain from voting for the circuit clerk in the upcoming election. You people have broke me down. By the way take notice I have heard some of the same sentiment throughout the county we are embarrassed by you.

rsp wrote on April 14, 2012 at 11:04 pm

Could always write in Holderfield....

wayward wrote on April 15, 2012 at 8:04 am

Why not just vote Wysocki?  She'd be considered a moderate Democrat, rather than an extreme liberal.

rsp wrote on April 15, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I'm torn. A second primary is what I need. Just so everyone can vote on this situation. Holderfield or Blakeman. Let the public decide who should go on the ballot, and then have the election. Unless Wysocki wins really big I don't think they will get the message. And they need to get the message or nothing will change. So...since I can't have that, I think that those who want Holderfield should get to vote for her and the rest should vote for Wysocki. I'm sure people will vote for Blakeman thinking their votes won't count if they don't. But their last votes didn't. And sometimes there are bigger issues at stake. 

Dann001 wrote on April 14, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Habeeb Habeeb????? Who's the chairperson of the Democrats, Rosanna Rosanna Danna? 

"Nevermind"

johnny wrote on April 14, 2012 at 8:04 pm

I'm glad we're focusing on making fun of people's names instead of ethics.

wayward wrote on April 14, 2012 at 9:04 pm

If it had just been Rick Winkel or Tim Johnson who pulled out and allowed the GOP committee to pick his replacement, I'd probably think, "OK, stuff happens."  But when both of them do it, it starts to look like more than a coincidence.

It's not hard to imagine why the committee would choose Blakeman over Holderfield.  But it still seems like an end run around the primary process.  Sometimes there are candidates in the primary that the party leadership doesn't like.  Recruiting other people to run against them is legitimate, but they should be bona fide candidates, not stalking horses.  It was hard to imagine why Rick Winkel would want to be circuit clerk when he entered the race, and in the end, he pulled out of the race after it was too late to take his name off the ballot.  Did he ever have any intention of running for the office in November?

rsp wrote on April 14, 2012 at 11:04 pm

That's what I've been wondering all along. Frank asked him to run. The only money in his campaign apparently was his own. He will still be working at the same place, at the U of I after the money was secured for the Institute. So I want to know if the N-G is looking into the contracts and funding to see if the dates add up. I can't see why he would get involved in something like this intentionally unless initially he got in cleanly and then when he saw the muck going on decided he didn't want to be involved. If that was the case, and he has knowledge that should be made public he should come forward.

wayward wrote on April 15, 2012 at 8:04 am

Yeah, I'd also heard that he was recruited by Linda Frank and figured that was one way to keep Holderfield from winning the primary.  Then there was a lawsuit to knock Holderfield off the ballot for signing Carlson's petition.  (Realistically, someone could argue that details, policies, and procedures would be kind of important in the circuit clerk job, and a mistake like that wasn't a good sign.)  It would be very interesting if the N-G could FOIA the grants and contracts info related to Winkel's UI position.

ericbussell wrote on April 15, 2012 at 12:04 am

The laws should be clear so we don't end up in this situation again.  I hope law makers will do something to prevent this type of situation in the future.

When the State Board of Elections suggests that a County Clerk consult with the State's Attorney, that seems like the right thing to do.  That is exactly what Hulten did.  

Habeeb was vocal in the media, encouraging people to vote for Holderfield in the primary and reminded everyone that Winkel was no longer on the ballot.  Being fair and neutral in a primary or during a contested nomination seems like the right thing for a party chairman to do and that's exactly what he did after the primary.  

Holderfield lost the election and put the nomination in the hands of the elected precinct committeeman.  I think the appropriate thing for the precinct committeemen to do would be to nominate the candidate who they feel is best qualified for the position.  Whether or not they nominated the best candidate is certainly up for debate.   The voters are represented by elected precinct committeemen and these elected officials should be accountable to the voters in their precinct.

While the election laws may need more clarity, I can't imagine a more practical way to handle vacancies in partisan elections.   

rsp wrote on April 15, 2012 at 8:04 am

They were asking for more candidates for the position before the election results were certified. On the night of the election Habeeb suggested that Holderfield may not be the candidate. Which constituents do you think they were listening to? Hulten? Frank?

stupidis wrote on April 15, 2012 at 9:04 am

Wonderful, I feel so much better know that you, Bussell, have assured all of the voters in Champaign County of a fair process. 

ericbussell wrote on April 15, 2012 at 6:04 pm

There are specific rules on how to fill vacancies and it appears all those rules were followed correctly.  In my opinion, the role of a party chairman is to facilitate an open and fair process and that is exactly what Habeeb did. 

rsp wrote on April 16, 2012 at 1:04 am

I think you are missing the point. You think the system worked? The voters are supposed to vote in candidates, not have a handful of insiders manipulate the system to get thier way. It's becoming the way to hand off your position to to your child, or someone else you want to reward. It's easier to elect an incumbent even if it's for a different seat. How many times have you heard of someone being elected and and not serving, so the party gets to pick. 

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-johnson-20120416,0,6702064.story

ericbussell wrote on April 16, 2012 at 7:04 am

Ideally, the voters would decide through a special election to fill every vacancy.  If I were a politician, I'd probably be supporting this very notion without providing any insight on how we'd pay to implement the idea, while suggesting that we cut spending.  :-)  

My argument is that the current system is practical (not ideal), given the fact we lack endless money and resources to conduct special elections for every vacancy at every level.  

I think everyone would agree that election laws should be more clear.   Yes, I personally think that the rules were followed correctly, whether we like them or not. 

I mostly agree with the Trib editorial, but I think that Gill winning was a surprise that changed the outlook on that race, giving Johnson the ability to back out without putting the seat at risk.  This is a good example because I think the person who will be nominated will not be the one I would have voted for in the primary if I had a choice.  A connected insider is more likely to get the nod instead of the candidate I feel would be more exciting.  Believe me, I am not missing the point.  I just don't think it is practical to have a special election for each vacancy.  

 

rsp wrote on April 16, 2012 at 11:04 am

You are aware that Johnson told colleagues last fall that he was going to retire, right? That means he wasn't waiting to see who the challenger would be, he was acting as a place holder. It had nothing to do with Gill. 

ericbussell wrote on April 17, 2012 at 7:04 am

Do you have a source on that?  Everything that I've read and heard says otherwise.  Last fall, there was some big shot from the St. Louis area who was going to give Johnson a run.  It was allegedly going to attract all kinds of national money and be a highly contested race.   What you are saying, in light of that, is that Johnson was going to pull a stunt and put the seat at risk.  I'm no pundit, but in order for me to believe that, I'd have to accept that Congressman Johnson is wreckless and would risk party insiders running an unproven candidate against someone who was thought to be (at the time) a powerhouse.  I'm sorry, but it just doesn't add up.  Can you point me to a report or provide anything that supports your claim?  

Goetten's weak showing was a huge surprise...   

ericbussell wrote on April 17, 2012 at 9:04 am

I see where Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, suggested there was talk of this happening a year ago.  It will be interesting to see how this develops.  Funny how when I start to investigate your claim, there is a big blaring article in today's N-G.  :-)

stupidis wrote on April 15, 2012 at 9:04 am

Lesson all the way around, right?  If you want to participate in Republican politics play by "their" rules not the rules of justice, honesty, fairness and equality.

Straight from the Champaign County Republican website:

Champaign County Republican Party Platform
(Adopted March 5, 2008, Re-affirmed March 3, 2010)

Here in the Land of Lincoln, home of the nation’s first Republican President, the Champaign County Republican Party (CCRP) stands today for the same core values based on freedom and democracy that Lincoln first proposed.

Champaign County can boast having some of the richest farmland in the world, outstanding higher educational opportunities, including one of the premiere research universities in the country, top-tier health care facilities, and a diverse range of cultural and economic opportunities. The CCRP seeks to improve the lives of all Champaign County residents based on the following values:

WE BELIEVE in limited government

  • Government should only perform those functions that cannot be done by individuals and private organizations.
  • Government should avoid unduly interfering with free enterprise and free markets, allowing local businesses to stay competitive.

WE BELIEVE in fiscal responsibility

  • Government must be accountable to taxpayers and act in a responsible and transparent manner.
  • Government should have a built-in bias toward lowering taxes, allowing citizens to keep more of what they earn.

WE BELIEVE in fairness under the law, regardless of economic or social status

  • Government should ensure fair and equal access to its institutions, such as schools and the courts.
  • Government should ensure that an excellent education is available to every child and supported by all.

WE BELIEVE that private-property rights are the foundation of individual freedoms

  • Government should defer to the owners when considering the stewardship of property.
  • Government should exercise eminent domain only with extreme caution

 

Can we say, "What a joke"!  I think it should say, "We believe that we can pick our candidates based on how well they listen to us, the all mighty powerful.  We decide who we want, not the people"! 

pattsi wrote on April 15, 2012 at 10:04 am

Eric Bussell make an argument as to the correctness of the process. This might be accurate related to what is laid out; however, in actual fact this may not be the case. He argues that elected precinct people voted and choose a candidate. If one uses the information on the county clerk's web site where the names of the individuals who turned in petitions to be on the ballot as precinct commttee person, one can learn a lot. Look here for yourself.

http://www.champaigncountyclerk.com/elections/2012_pc_candidate_filings....

Reviewing this data, one finds 76 individuals listed under Republican and no competition in any of the precincts. On the Democratic side, 44 precincts have people running with two where there are two candidates. Since competition basically did not exist for these positions, I will bet anyone a good cup of coffee that 95% of the voters and residents in each precinct have no idea who their precinct committee person is because there was no need to campaign and to further my bet 95% of the precinct committee persons do not work their precinct. (I do know a few exceptions who do.) In addition, I would bet that the precinct committee persons did not poll their precinct to find out how the people they represent want the precinct person to support/vote.

Therefore to make an argument with any merit that elected, precinct committee persons made a decision and this is democracy and correct, leaves room for second thoughts. (I would make this same argument on either side of the aisle.

A Very Busy Mom wrote on April 15, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I believe the article stated that Habeeb Habeeb abstained on the vot.

fedupwithit wrote on April 16, 2012 at 11:04 am

I would probably abstain too. Might as well make it look like I had nothing to do with it, especially if I orchestrated the entire debacle.

Political Observer wrote on April 16, 2012 at 10:04 pm

     I’d like to thank all the commenters for their comments so far on this story and on the related story from the day before.  I think in many respects the comments are far more enlightening than the news stories themselves have been, and they’ve certainly added a great deal of additional information about what’s going on in this circuit court race (or fixed race, if that in fact is the case).  I hope people continue to keep commenting here, because this seems like a true case of citizen involvement in the political process, and I have a feeling that this is just the beginning of what’s going to eventually seep out in this matter.

     For instance, I understand that Gordy Hulten recently held a big Barbecue Fundraiser up in Rantoul (before last Friday’s vote, of course), and Stephanie Holderfield showed up to support his candidacy for County Clerk (and presumably to try and mend fences and bury the hatchet, so to speak.)  I wonder how many people would have had the courage to do that, given the level of disgust that Hulten expressed toward Stephanie and her attorney in the hearing that Hulten presided over back in January?

     Hulten mentioned during that hearing that he would conduct it as an open hearing, meaning that a transcript could be made available to interested citizens.  Heck, even the audio could probably be made available under a freedom of information request, given that it was indeed an open hearing…although it certainly wouldn’t help Hulten’s election campaign or bode well for his friend Deb Frank Feinen’s future election prospects, if it were made available to the public.  (Remember, it was Feinen who gave her good buddy Hulten his start in “elective office” by championing his appointment for a vacancy on the Champaign City Council over 2 far-less-partisan, highly-qualified citizens who likely didn’t intend to use it as a mere stepping stone to a higher position in the Republican party, as Hulten did).

     It would be interesting to have a panel of lawyers comment on that ballot hearing, and not just on Hulten’s going ballistic over the recusal motion filed by Stephanie’s attorney, or Hulten’s intemperate remarks toward Stephanie that were mentioned in the comment section of the earlier News-Gazette article.   Indeed, what was even more interesting was (1) How Deb Frank Feinen seemed in her arguments to be departing from the legal material that was furnished to Stephanie’s attorney in the brief he’d been given in advance and (2) How incredibly weak the case itself was, in that Feinen was arguing that because Stephanie had signed Ben Carlson’s Democratic petition, that this act somehow cast in doubt the fact that Stephanie was even a member of the Republican Party in the first place. (Yep! The argument was that Stephanie didn’t have the right to even appear on the Republican Party’s primary ballot because it couldn’t be determined that she was indeed a Republican, despite all the Republicans who’d signed her petitions, despite the fact that she was serving as a Republican on the County Board, despite all the parades she’d marched in as a Republican, the various campaign events she’d attended, the fundraisers, the special events for selected Republican women in Springfield that she’d participated in, etc.)  Deb Frank Feinen just wasn’t sure that Stephanie could truly be considered a Republican, and that was the basis of her incredibly weak case…

ericbussell wrote on April 17, 2012 at 8:04 am

I attended the BBQ you mention and also attended the open hearing you referenced.  Holderfield did show up to the BBQ, but I'm curious what hatchet she was trying to bury?  The BBQ happened well before Feinen challenged Holderfield's petition.  I think it was courageous that she drove up on a motorcycle, but I think you are painting a hugely inaccurate picture of the situation.

I also attended the hearing.  Feinen presented her case, but the committee voted unanimously in support of Holderfield remaining on the ballot.  I don't recall Hulten going "ballistic", he strongly disagreed with some things, but both Hulten and Reitz were very professional (and accurate in my opinion) throughout the entire hearing.  If people read the transcript, I think it would remove the dramatic spin, so I encourage everyone to do so if possible. 

This anonymous and ongoing campaign against Hulten has been quite entertaining.  He is definitely the new boogeyman of local politics.  Even though he sold his interest in Results Plus, anonymous people are accusing him "still running" and "extremely lucrative" consulting practice.  Again, you are painting an inaccurate picture.   

Facts:

1. Holderfield signed the petition of Ben Carlson, a democrat.  

2. Linda Frank's ex-husband protested and Deb Feinen represented her client (dad).

3. The 3-person local election commission that includes Hulten and Reitz ruled unanimously in favor of Holderfield.

4. The state election commission provided some suggestions to Hulten on how to deal with Winkel's votes, suggesting that he consult with the State's attorney.

5. The State's Attorney advised Hulten to count Winkel's votes.

6.  Winkel won the election even though he had withdrawn after the deadline to have his name removed and even though there were press announcements and efforts by Habeeb Habeeb reminding primary voters that Winkel was no longer running.  

7.  Hulten certified Winkel as the winner, following the advice of Julia Reitz. 

8.  Winkel declined the nomination.

9.  Blakeman won the nomination from the elected precinct committeeman who were in attendance at the special election.

10. The campaign against Hulten continues. 

 

 

johnny wrote on April 18, 2012 at 1:04 am

I don't know who you are, but the News-Gazette should hire you as an investigative reporter.

Political Observer wrote on April 20, 2012 at 2:04 am

Eric Bussell raised a number of issues in his reply to my previous post.  In an effort to address them, I’ve recast his reply to my previous post as a dialogue between the two of us where he states his point (EB) and I reply to his remarks (PO)…

EB:  I attended the BBQ you mention and also attended the open hearing you referenced.  Holderfield did show up to the BBQ, but I'm curious what hatchet she was trying to bury?  The BBQ happened well before Feinen challenged Holderfield's petition.  I think it was courageous that she drove up on a motorcycle, but I think you are painting a hugely inaccurate picture of the situation.

PO:  You’re right, I didn’t realize how long ago this event occurred when I made my earlier post.  I went to Hulten’s blog to see what he what he might have blogged about all the recent election events that have occurred, and when I looked at the section that had links to his “recent” blog posts, the most recent post was on the BBQ.  If I’d paused my mouse cursor on the link, I would have seen a date pop up, and I would have realized that Hulten hasn’t blogged anything for a long, long time.  However, I clicked on the link without pausing the mouse cursor long enough to notice the date, so I assumed since it was the most recent blog post, it must have been an event that had happened recently (especially since it was an event that had taken place outdoors).

That said, I suspect a number of Republican party members have a dislike for Stephanie Holderfield that goes back way before the December-January ballot challenge circus by Steve Frank and Deborah Frank Feinen; in fact, as many people have mentioned, it probably goes back to the original primary challenge she made against an incumbent Republican that led to her getting elected to the County Board in the first place, and it was likely only exacerbated when she announced her intention to challenge Linda Frank in the Republican primary.  So it’s still of some interest to me that she showed up at that Hulten fund-raiser and made an effort to get along with Hulten and his friends, even if it isn’t as dramatic an event as I originally took it to be when I thought it was a “recent” event.

EB:  I also attended the hearing.  Feinen presented her case, but the committee voted unanimously in support of Holderfield remaining on the ballot. 

PO:  Well, yeah!  As I pointed out earlier, it was an extremely weak case!  It was apparent how weak it was when Julie Rietz presented her summary.  It was clear that Hulten really wanted to throw Stephanie off the ballot, but realized that he’d be making a fool of himself by doing so, given how weak the case was, so he had to content himself with lecturing both Stephanie and her attorney as though this was some kind of a military trial where he greatly outranked them.

EB:  I don't recall Hulten going "ballistic", he strongly disagreed with some things, but both Hulten and Reitz were very professional (and accurate in my opinion) throughout the entire hearing.

PO:  As I’ve said before, a motion by an attorney for a judge to recuse himself in a hearing because of a possible conflict of interest (even the appearance of a possible conflict of interest) is a routine, completely standard procedure.  In this case, there was an enormous, actual conflict of interest that would have led practically any attorney whatsoever to file such a recusal motion.  What is not routine, however, is for a judge to take such a filing as a personal affront and to begin his summary by saying that he feels “compelled to defend myself” as though there has been some kind of affront to his honor in suggesting a possible conflict of interest.  Hulten actually suggested that he saw the filing of the recusal motion as an attempt to “discredit the process.”  He was very harsh and over the top in the remarks he directed at both Stephanie and her attorney.

EB:  If people read the transcript, I think it would remove the dramatic spin, so I encourage everyone to do so if possible.

PO:  Well, that’s an interesting comment.  The whole meeting was declared an open hearing by Hulten at the outset, so there’s nothing legally stopping you from posting the transcript here, so that readers of the News-Gazette can read it and judge for themselves what went on that day.  You covered it as a reporter, so you have the relevant materials.  You’d be doing a great public service by doing so, given the public interest in what’s going on (judging by how many comments have been made in the News-Gazette reader’s forum on this general topic.)  So, go ahead:  Prove me wrong! Post the transcript (in sections, if necessary) and we can all make our own judgments…

EB:  This anonymous and ongoing campaign against Hulten has been quite entertaining.  He is definitely the new boogeyman of local politics.

PO:  I’ll second that emotion!  Get up and Boogie! Go Gordy Go!  He knew that some day his name would be in County Clerk lights saying, …”Oh! Gordy be Good tonight!

EB:   Even though he sold his interest in Results Plus, anonymous people are accusing him "still running" and "extremely lucrative" consulting practice.  Again, you are painting an inaccurate picture.

PO:  Hmmm…That’s news to me! So, how long ago did he sell it?  Seems like, since you’re a blogger and a reporter and such a good friend of his, that would be an interesting thing for you to write about. Any chance you could copy and paste some of that material here?

EB:  Facts:

1. Holderfield signed the petition of Ben Carlson, a democrat.

PO:  An acquaintance of mine the other day came up with an interesting theory about this that may explain a few things that are going on.  (I’ll cover this later, in a separate post.)

EB:  2. Linda Frank's ex-husband protested and Deb Feinen represented her client (dad).

PO:  Yeah, it’s interesting that the hearing never went into why Tim Johnson’s old law partner, Steve Frank, filed this challenge.  What was his motivation?  Just simple revenge for Stephanie having the audacity to present a primary challenge against his ex-wife?  How did he become aware of her signature being on Ben Carlson’s petition?  (Gordy Hulten, Tim Johnson’s old campaign manager, tipped him off, right?)…Or was it just the case that Steve Frank and Deb Frank Feinen earlier had so much fun throwing Jerommie Smith off the ballot when he tried to run as an independent for County Sheriff against Dan Walsh (another former law partner of Tim Johnson), even though he had gathered about 4,700 signatures on his petitions, that they just had to try to do it again, for old time’s sake?

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/politics-and-government/2010-07-08/sheriff-candidate-formally-withdraws-name-ballot-switches-fo

Isn’t it bad enough that today’s Republican Party likes doing voter suppression…let alone, that there’s a father-daughter Republican team that likes doing candidate suppression?

EB:  3. The 3-person local election commission that includes Hulten and Reitz ruled unanimously in favor of Holderfield.

PO:  Yeah, but as I’ve said many times, it was a very, very weak case, so that outcome was pretty much dictated by the legal analysis provided by Julia Reitz…

EB:  4. The state election commission provided some suggestions to Hulten on how to deal with Winkel's votes, suggesting that he consult with the State's attorney.

5. The State's Attorney advised Hulten to count Winkel's votes.

6.  Winkel won the election even though he had withdrawn after the deadline to have his name removed and even though there were press announcements and efforts by Habeeb Habeeb reminding primary voters that Winkel was no longer running.

7.  Hulten certified Winkel as the winner, following the advice of Julia Reitz.

8.  Winkel declined the nomination.

PO:  Yeah, but as I pointed out in another discussion thread, you’re leaving out a very important part of the story, every time you phrase things this way:

    In these News-Gazette discussion forums, there are several contradictory opinions put forth on the issue of whether Gordy Hulten followed the law or not in how he handled the votes that were cast in favor of Rick Winkel for Circuit Clerk.  In one view, the votes for Winkel should have never been counted in the first place and voters should have been notified of the error in the ballot (that Winkel's name was on it and couldn't be removed).

     On the other hand, EB has repeatedly insisted (in this discussion thread and elsewhere) that everything Hulten did was exactly what he had to do according to law.

     So who’s correct? Well, it turns out that a News-Gazette article back on March 28th called, “Sandbox Politics Can Take Its Toll” went into this issue in some detail…and it turns out the situation is quite a bit more complicated than what EB has claimed here. (EB is only telling News-Gazette readers about part of the recommendation from the State Board of Elections, which is the part that Hulten liked and decided to follow; EB doesn’t bother to mention the part of the recommendation that Hulten didn’t like, and then decided to ignore...or that given contradictory recommendations, Hulten could have requested a clarification from the State Attorney General Lisa Madigan.)

-------------------------

http://www.news-gazette.com/opinions/editorials/2012-03-28/sandbox-politics-can-take-its-toll.html

County Clerk Gordy Hulten rejected the Illinois State Board of Elections' recommendation to ignore the Winkel votes and recognize Holderfield as the winner. Hulten intends to certify Winkel as the winner and then allow the county Republican Party to decide who its candidate will be — Holderfield or some mystery pol who's currently lurking in the shadows.

[…]

Why did more voters vote for Winkel than Holderfield? Probably for a variety of reasons.

Some people may not have realized Winkel had withdrawn. Some may have supported him to lay the groundwork for another nominee to be named by the party. Some may have voted for Winkel to express a personal objection to Holderfield.

But what matters is what voters did, not why they did it.

That leaves the legal issue — conflicting opinions provided to Republican Hulten by Democratic State's Attorney Julie Rietz and the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Board of Elections Executive Director Rupert Borgsmiller said the advice his general counsel gave to Hulten about Winkel's withdrawal is the same it gives to other election officials, including the recent withdrawal of former state Rep. Roger Eddy, a Hutsonville Republican, from the primary election.

"This is what our best practices are," said Borgsmiller, who said his office advised Hulten to publish notices in polling places that Winkel had withdrawn and then, after the election, to ignore votes for Winkel.

While providing that recommendation, Borgsmiller said he also urged local officials to seek advice from their state's attorney.

Hulten did seek an opinion from Rietz's office and, based on that, ignored the state board of elections.

Steve Ziegler, first assistant in Rietz's office, disagreed with the state board because there is "nothing in the election code that allows the county clerk to ignore those votes."

"(Winkel's) there on the ballot," said Ziegler, who characterized the state's board recommendations as "fraught with difficulties."

Opinions, of course, are just that. What matters is a ruling from the courts about the status of the law or, in its absence, an opinion from Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Members of the state elections board or Rietz should seek such an opinion from Madigan to clarify this issue.

-----------------------------------

EB:  9.  Blakeman won the nomination from the elected precinct committeeman who were in attendance at the special election.

10. The campaign against Hulten continues.

PO:  Yeah, well I think a lot of people can detect the odor when the fix is in...

 

ericbussell wrote on April 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm

re: Gordy's past political work - he is a very talented political operative and has been helping candidates for a long time.  If you feel that make him less attractive to run for County Clerk, so be it.  The fact that he was good enough to start his own business and get paid for his expertise, in my opinion, is a selling point.  He sold his interest in Results Plus to focus on his duties as County Clerk.  Sure, I can blog about it, but Gordy's past consulting work is really not very interesting. 

re: People being against Holderfield - It's easy to believe this is some type of conspiracy.   If you remove the spin and talk to people, there were many people who believed that Holderfield deserved to be the nominee because she was the only one of the four campaigning.   There were also many who believed that Holderfield did a poor job handling her petition challenge and her campaign, and were not confident in her ability to manage the office and/or win the election. 

re: Petition challenge - based on past petition challenges, candidates knew their petitions were going to be scrutinized.  Holderfield did not follow the rules, Frank challenged, and the election board ruled unanimously in favor of keeping Holderfield on the ballot.  Politicos are going to review the petitions in every election to look for opportunities to challenge, so let's get out of the habit of blaming every petition challenge on Hulten because he is the County Clerk.  It will be sad if we have to go through this every election cycle.  People challenge petitions and it is annoying.  Doesn't it make so much more sense to simply blame the person who is actually challenging the petition?

re: Legal Opinion from Attorney General - I agree with the news Gazette.  It would be nice to get some clarification.  

Political Observer wrote on April 16, 2012 at 11:04 pm

     There’s another extremely interesting legal issue in this case, and in a way I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned it yet.  It centers around the fact that there are 2 different sets of Republican precinct committeemen that could be involved in voting for the Republican circuit clerk candidate -- the so-called “Lame Duck” committeemen that have served for the last 2 years, and the new ones that were just elected in the primary election.  Now, Gordy has certified the election of the new committeemen, so it might seem obvious that they would be the ones to vote on the issue, and that in fact is what happened at last week’s meeting. 

     However, state law provides that each political party must have a party convention 29 days after the primary, which translates into this coming Wednesday, April 18th.  At this convention, the new slate of committeemen is introduced, they elect a new chairman, and then they are allowed to conduct whatever party business is brought to the floor by the new chairman.  Since this has not happened yet, Gordy and Habib have apparently had new committeemen vote on an issue before they were even properly seated as new committeemen and constituted as a committee that can vote on party business.  (The analogy in Congress might be if the Speaker of the House decided to swear in all the just-elected Members of the House right after the November election so that there wouldn’t have to be a “Lame Duck” session of Congress. Obviously, this can’t be done, because there is a specific day that has been designated as the opening day for the new session of Congress, and the Speaker of the House has no power to change that day…So the question is, Can Gordy and Habib over-rule state law and bring Republican party business before the new committeemen before they have been properly constituted as a new committee?  Why wouldn’t it fall to the “Lame Duck” committeemen to conduct business before the new convention is held, when the timing requirements of choosing a candidate (the 8-day window after candidate certification) require the candidate to be chosen during a “Lame Duck” time period?

     As a parenthetical note, it’s easy to see why Gordy and Habib might have little interest in having the “Lame Duck” committeemen choose the new Circuit Clerk candidate.  After all, there only were 36 elected precinct committeemen until late last Fall, when Gordy, Habib and Kristin Williamson did a massive recruiting job, to increase that number to 76.  So why have only 36 “Lame Ducks” choose the Circuit Clerk candidate, when there are now at least 40 new voters that you’ve personally helped to recruit yourself? (See the quote from the News-Gazette article below:)

-----

County GOP busy slating committeeman candidates

Sat, 12/03/2011 –

Champaign County Republicans already have candidates for committeeman in 61 of the county's 118 precincts, and party officials hope to have as many as 70 by the time the primary election period closes Monday afternoon.

By contrast, the party currently has 36 elected precinct committeemen.

Habeeb Habeeb, the current county party treasurer and the only announced candidate for county chairman [said], "We're organizing and building our party like never before."

Party officials said they began to plan for an increase in the number of committeemen earlier this year. Habeeb; Kristin Williamson, the party's vice chair of communications; and County Clerk Gordon Hulten were credited with recruiting committeeman candidates.

 

 

ericbussell wrote on April 17, 2012 at 8:04 am

State law says that precinct committeemen terms end/start when primary results are certified.  Results were certified on April 10.  So in conclusion, the selection of which set of Precinct Committeeman (newly elected vs. lame duck) was determined by state law and was not part of some conspiracy by Habeeb, Williamson, and Hulten.  

If you want a list of elected precinct committeeman, you can find them here: http://www.champaigncountyclerk.com/elections/results/2012/03_20_2012_results.html

Political Observer wrote on April 19, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Hmmm…To investigate further this question of which set of precinct committeemen should have voted on the new circuit clerk candidate, I went back to my notes on this topic, and it turns out that I was relying on information that had come from Habeeb Habeeb himself, so no wonder I got things wrong!

Jim Turpin on an episode of “Penny For Your Thoughts” read a statement that he said was from Habeeb Habeeb that explained that if the vote on the new circuit clerk candidate took place before the April 18th Republican County Convention, then it would be the old Precinct Committeemen who were voting, while if it took place after April 18th, then it would be the new Precinct Committeemen who were voting.

 But it turns out that Habeeb Habeeb was wrong about that, and so my speculations about the possibility of the wrong set of Precinct Committeemen having voted on the issue were off-the-mark…

However, Mr. Bussell, the remainder of my post (reproduced below) remains accurate, and, indeed, some recent items that have come to my attention make it even more relevant than it was at the time that I wrote it originally…So I’ll return to this topic later when I have more time to focus on it…

--------------------------------------------------------

    As a parenthetical note, it’s easy to see why Gordy and Habib might have little interest in having the “Lame Duck” committeemen choose the new Circuit Clerk candidate.  After all, there only were 36 elected precinct committeemen until late last Fall, when Gordy, Habib and Kristin Williamson did a massive recruiting job, to increase that number to 76.  So why have only 36 “Lame Ducks” choose the Circuit Clerk candidate, when there are now at least 40 new voters that you’ve personally helped to recruit yourself? (See the quote from the News-Gazette article below:)

-----

County GOP busy slating committeeman candidates

Sat, 12/03/2011 –

Champaign County Republicans already have candidates for committeeman in 61 of the county's 118 precincts, and party officials hope to have as many as 70 by the time the primary election period closes Monday afternoon.

By contrast, the party currently has 36 elected precinct committeemen.

Habeeb Habeeb, the current county party treasurer and the only announced candidate for county chairman [said], "We're organizing and building our party like never before."

Party officials said they began to plan for an increase in the number of committeemen earlier this year. Habeeb; Kristin Williamson, the party's vice chair of communications; and County Clerk Gordon Hulten were credited with recruiting committeeman candidates.

 

 

 

ericbussell wrote on April 21, 2012 at 8:04 am
  1. Winkel won the election.
  2. County Clerk certified the election results.  By law, newly-elected Precinct Committeemen are acting Precinct Committeemen. 
  3. Winkel declined the nomination.
  4. Republican Party seeks nominations.  Four canidates applied.
  5. Because it is essentially impossible for lame duck Precinct Committeemen to elect the nominee in any scenario, the newly-elected Precinct Committee choose the nominee.

Just in case there is any confusion:

  • The lame duck PCs could not choose a nominee until the County Clerk certified the election results.
  • Since the newly-elected PCs, by law, are the acting PCs once the election is certified, they are the only ones who could vote on the nominee.
  • Nobody could be nominated until the election was certified and the election winner declined the nomination. 

In conclusion, alleged bias could not have played in a role in choosing the PCs (lame duck vs. newly-elected) who nominated the Circuit Clerk nominee. 

Political Observer wrote on April 22, 2012 at 9:04 pm

You missed the point I was making in my last post, EB, but I can see that that’s probably largely due to the way I phrased the parenthetical comment in the middle section of the post. Clearly, I could have done a better job of trying to make the point that I wanted to make in that middle section of the post.

 

At the beginning of my last post, I pointed out that, due to incorrect information from Habeeb Habeeb that was quoted on “Penny For Your Thoughts, it appeared that there was a choice of which precinct committeemen would make the decision.  Actually, though, there wasn’t any choice – only the newly-elected precinct committeemen can make the choice.  So I agree with almost all of your entire post -- except for your first sentence and your last sentence.

 

In your first sentence, you wrote:  “1. Winkel won the election,” as though this were an incontrovertible fact.  Well, as I pointed out earlier, you’re once again completely ignoring what the News-Gazette reported in their article back on March 28th called, “Sandbox Politics Can Take Its Toll.”  Here’s the relevant section:

 

------------

"This is what our best practices are," said Borgsmiller [of the state board of elections], who said his office advised Hulten to [A1] publish notices in polling places that Winkel had withdrawn and then, after the election, to [A2] ignore votes for Winkel.

 

While providing that recommendation, Borgsmiller said he also urged local officials to [A3] seek advice from their state's attorney.

 

Hulten did [A3] seek an opinion from Rietz's office and, based on that, ignored ([A1] and [A2] from) the state board of elections. (Because [A3] seemed to be in contradiction with [A1] and [A2].)

---------------

 

When Hulten noticed that [A3] seemed to be in contradiction with [A1] and [A2], what he should have done was get a higher-level opinion, or as the News-Gazette put it, “ What matters is [B1] a ruling from the courts about the status of the law or, in its absence, [B2] an opinion from Attorney General Lisa Madigan.”  That’s what a number of people have been trying to tell you in this discussion forum, that Hulten saw [A3] as a solution that he liked, so instead of doing what he should have done (options [B1] or [B2], he just figured he could get away with ignoring the advice [A1] and [A2]…and he cherry-picked [A3] as what he was going with.  And that’s what makes a lot of people mad!  Hulten cherry-picked [A3] instead of doing the right thing (options [B1] or [B2], and…Wonder of Wonders!...he just happened to get exactly the results that he sure seemed to be strongly in favor of during the whole process!

 

P.S.  The comparison that I really wanted to make in my parenthetical comment in my earlier post was not between the 76 new precinct committeemen and the 36 “lame duck” precinct committeemen, as I carelessly stated, but rather between the 76 new precinct committeemen that resulted from Hulten, Habeeb and Williamson having their massive recruiting drive last Fall and however many precinct committeemen there would have been after the primary election without that massive recruiting drive.  The point is that Hulten and Williamson, given where they were coming from, may well have been stacking the vote (consciously or unconsciously) against Stephanie Holderfield in their selection of who those new precinct committeeman were.  In fact, that’s the subject of my next post.

 

Political Observer wrote on April 22, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Here’s an interesting angle from which to view this whole election SNAFU we’ve all been discussing for quite some time now…

 

First of all, consider the fact that Gordy Hulten was “Mr. IlliniPundit.com” for a number of years.  Consider also, all the items from his “Illini Pundit Blog” that were sent out through RSS syndication and other means throughout the years, as well as all the copies of the blog itself that people downloaded onto their hard drives at various times.  There must indeed be many, many old hard drives just sitting out there with all kinds of copies of the various things that Gordy Hulten has posted over his many years of writing!

 

For example, here’s a notice that Gordy sent out from the Champaign County Young Republicans on June 6, 2006.  I’ve edited out parts of it for brevity…

 

------------------------------

Champaign County Young Republicans Change in Leadership

 

Wednesday June 7, 2006, the Champaign County Young Republicans (CCYRs) will hold our annual elections for leadership positions.  A slate of officers has been nominated, and all Young Republicans in Champaign County are invited to attend...

 

In April, former CCYR Chairman and Founder Jason Barickman was elected Chairman of the Champaign County Republicans Central Committee…The following are the candidates nominated for the executive board:

 

Katie Malone, current Outreach Coordinator for CCYRs, has been nominated as Chairman… Katie is thrilled to have been nominated as chairman, and is eager to pick up where Jason left off.

 

Kristin Williamson, former Parkland College Republicans President, will seek the position of Vice-Chairman…  The current executive board has observed Kristin’s talent for leadership over the past year, and we are so pleased that she has agreed to run for Vice-Chairman.

 

Eric Bussell, local business owner, will run for the position of treasurer.

 

----------------------------------

 

Isn’t this interesting, such a stellar, all-star cast of Young Republicans back in 2006?  The former Chairman and Founder, Jason Barickman, went on to be Champaign County Republican Party Chairman, and is now running for the Illinois State Senate!  And you, Eric, were the group’s treasurer (and sometimes provided the meeting place for the club)! Kristin Williamson is now the #2 official in the Champaign County Republican Party, and she along with Gordy Hulten  and the #1 party official, Habeeb Habeeb, were in charge of choosing those 40 or more new Republican Precinct Committeemen, so many of whom ended up voting for your fellow Young Republican officer, Katie Malone Blakeman. Man, such a surprise and such a small world!  It looks like the fix has been in since last Fall!

ericbussell wrote on April 23, 2012 at 7:04 am

 

Let's review the facts:

1.  Hulten operated a blog called the IlliniPundit.

2.  Blakeman, Williamson, and Bussell (that's me) were Young Republicans.   

3.  Every since Habeeb has been acting Chairman, there has been a big push to recruit Precinct Committeemen for the 2012 election.  Everyone at many meetings was encouraged to help recruit, not just those allegedly loyal to Habeeb and/or former Young Republicans.  

In what world is it spun as a bad thing for party leaders to encourage party volunteers to recruit Precinct Committeemen?  

If the whole basis for your conspiracy is that relationships exist in this town, there is no end to what "really" went down.  

Vinny wrote on May 03, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Holderfield is out. Good thing - IMHO she was not qualified... at least the CC GOP Committee has some sense.


Shout from the rooftop Steph... no one is listening.