Hopeful facing objections gets 2nd extension in Vermilion

DANVILLE — The Vermilion County electoral board again granted more time for an independent candidate for county board to prepare for a hearing regarding objections filed against her candidacy.

For the second time this week, the board pushed back the hearing, rescheduling for next Thursday, despite adamant objections from the attorney representing Louise Kain, the resident who filed an objection challenging the candidacy of Hau Swearingen. Swearingen filed to run as an independent candidate for county board District 9 in the Nov. 6 election.

Kain's objection claims that some of the more than 80 names and addresses of those who signed Swearingen's candidate petitions are not valid, because, for example, some are not registered voters, and some are not residents of District 9. As a result, Kain's objection states that Swearingen's name should not appear on the ballot.

To be an independent candidate, Swearingen must have 45 valid signatures of registered voters who live in District 9. All three seats in District 9 are up for election this fall. The only ones who filed earlier this year to run in that district are the three Democratic incumbents, Bruce Stark, Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon and Larry Davis.

A hearing to address the objections was originally scheduled for Tuesday morning, but Swearingen did not have an attorney with her then and asked for a continuance. Although the electoral board members expressed concerns about acting quickly to meet upcoming election deadlines, they agreed to give her two more days and rescheduled for Thursday morning.

Danville attorney Frank Young, the former Republican state's attorney for the county, came with Swearingen on Thursday morning and promptly asked the electoral board for another week to prepare for the hearing. Young said Swearingen is a naturalized citizen and was out of town when a notice of the hearing was sent to her residence last week, and she did not see the notice until Sunday night, just two days before the hearing. She first contacted him about representing her Monday night, he said, and he has not had time to look over the petitions or the objections filed by Kain. Swearingen said Tuesday that she had difficulty getting an attorney.

Young said there's ample time for the electoral board to wait another week, and characterized the situation as an attempt to keep his client off the ballot. He said he believes it's absolutely essential that his client have the time to review everything with him.

"Which I think is certainly fair," Young said.

Greg Lietz, who is the chairman of the local Democratic Party and the attorney representing Kain, argued that the hearing should not be delayed.

"We need to proceed forward and get this done," he said during Thursday morning's proceedings. Lietz added that the key is not the hearing but the electoral board's eventual review and verification of the names, addresses and signatures on the petitions.

"The lion's share of your work will be reviewing voter records," he said.

The three-member electoral board — Vermilion County Assistant State's Attorney Bill Donahue, Vermilion County Clerk Lynn Foster and Vermilion County Circuit Clerk Dennis Gardner — was leaning toward continuing with the hearing. But Young told the board that he had previously scheduled obligations and couldn't stay to represent Swearingen if the board decided to go ahead with the hearing at that moment.

Donahue said that he did not appreciate Young's comments that suggested an attempt to keep Swearingen off the ballot. He said that is not the case, and he suggested a compromise that would allow Lietz to present his information about Kain's objections at that moment, and then allow the hearing to reconvene next week when Young could present his response on Swearingen's behalf. Gardner said he didn't like the idea of Swearingen's attorney not being present to hear Lietz's comments. Young also objected to the proposal.

Eventually the board decided to continue the hearing a second time until 9 a.m. Thursday at the Vermilion County Courthouse.

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