Dems accuse county clerk of trying to impede candidacy challenge

Dems accuse county clerk of trying to impede candidacy challenge

URBANA — Leaders of the Champaign County Democratic Party issued a demand Thursday that Republican County Clerk Gordy Hulten recuse himself from a hearing on a legal challenge to the candidacy of a GOP county board hopeful — a challenge they allege he tried to stymie.

In a release issued Thursday evening, county Democratic Party Chairwoman Maryam Ar-Raheem, Vice Chairman Wayne Williams and former Chairman Al Klein allege that on his statement of candidacy, P.J. Trautman, the Republican hopeful for county board District 6, falsely reported that he was a Republican primary voter. They claim Trautman actually voted in the Democratic primary in March, which they said makes him ineligible to run for office as a Republican in the same election cycle.

The Democrats allege that, up until he was contacted by an attorney from the Illinois Democratic County Chairs' Association, Hulten refused to allow Trautman's candidacy statement to be inspected.

"Nobody was denied access to anything," he said in response. "Several people asked for copies of documents just prior to the holiday weekend, and often made differing and conflicting requests. After their requests were clarified, we responded with the documents as soon as we were able, during an incredibly busy season for our office."

After receiving the documents, which the Democrats said proved their contention, they then prepared a legal challenge to Trautman's candidacy, which had to be filed with the county clerk's office by Thursday.

They claim, however, that Hulten initially refused to accept the filing, only accepting it after more attorneys, including Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz, intervened.

Traditionally, a legal challenge of to a candidacy is heard by an electoral board made up of the county's state's attorney, clerk and circuit clerk. The Democrats want Hulten to recuse himself from that board in this instance.

"Hulten clearly cannot sit on the panel to decide this matter. He must recuse himself," Williams said Thursday night.

However, Hulten said Illinois law designates him, as county clerk, to chair a potential electoral board, except in cases where the office he is seeking is disputed.

"That is not the case here, and so if an electoral board is convened for these objections, I will chair it, as I have, without issue, all such boards during my eight years as clerk," he said.

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