URBANA — This spring's Cunningham Township assessor race is all but over after a judge on Monday sided with incumbent Dan Stebbins, who sought to have his only opponent removed from the ballot.
Stebbins, a Democrat, filed an objection in January to Laura Sandefur's candidacy on the grounds that she was a Democrat trying to run for assessor as an independent candidate.
That triggered an electoral board hearing, and last month, three Cunningham Township officers kicked Sandefur off the ballot. Sandefur challenged the electoral board's ruling, but Champaign County Associate Judge Chase Leonhard ruled on Monday that the board acted correctly.
Stebbins, a Democrat, successfully argued that Sandefur and her husband's prior connections to the Democratic Party made them ineligible to collect petition signatures for her run as an independent candidate.
Candidates for office need to collect a predetermined number of signatures before their names are printed on ballots, and the board ruled that all the signatures Sandefur and her husband collected on her behalf were invalid. That ruling put her below the minimum amount needed to get on the ballot.
That means Stebbins' name will be the only option listed on ballots for Cunningham Township assessor when voters go to the polls on April 9.
Stebbins said on Monday that taking away someone's ability to run for elective office is "a big step," and the move was not politically charged. He said he was only trying to correct a maneuver that he found to be "not consistent with Illinois law."
"It's something I had to think long and hard about doing," Stebbins said. "When you're challenging someone like that, it's someone's integrity."
Leonhard wrote in his ruling that the ability of a private citizen to run for office must be closely guarded and that "certain political stones may be thrown on the path to candidacy," but the motivation of the objecting party is beyond the scrutiny of the court in applying the law.