Constitution Party forced out of fall election

By Michael Ranieri

The Libertarian Party’s statewide candidates have been certified for November’s ballot in what the party called a “bittersweet victory,” but the State Board of Elections kicked the Constitution Party off the ballot after concluding hearings at the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St.

Armed with attorneys, private investigators and a professional handwriting expert, two mysterious men under the names Andrew Heffernan and Steve Nekic, believed to be working in conjunction with the Illinois Republican Party, successfully prevented the Constitution Party from being an option at the polls.

According to Doug Ibendahl, an attorney who represented the Constitution Party at the hearings, Heffernan and Nekic filed objections against candidates running for positions ranging from attorney general to senator. However, Ibendahl said he believes the only reason there were 11 separate petition challenges is because Heffernan and Nekic were recruited by the Illinois Republican Party.

“They have hidden their activities here for political purposes,” Ibendahl said to the board. “They are concerned about political embarrassment or negative publicity. The Illinois Republicans were the real objectors here. Mr. Heffernan and Nekic are conduit objectors.”

Ibendahl also claimed his evidence included “overwhelming proof” the Illinois Republican Party was the real objector, and the evidence was not allowed into the hearings. Heffernan and Nekic were reportedly not at any of the hearings.

Bill Malan, a Libertarian candidate who operates a spoof website under the title, is running for state attorney general and shared similar views to those of Ibendahl’s. In Illinois, the ballot requirement for signatures is 25,000. Although Malan had approximately 48,000 signatures, many of them were objected to, and signatures he collected himself were questioned.

“Democrats and Republicans write the ballot access laws to keep themselves in, to prevent competition,” Malan said. “Who is behind this? They have these frontmen, these names, but as one of the attorneys pointed out, these guys have never showed up.”

One of the issues Heffernan and Nekic took with the Constitution Party ballots, according to Nekic and Heffernan’s attorney, John Fogarty, was that one of the circulators was homeless.

“Our objection went to whether or not you could use a post office box as your address if you are a circulator of petitions,” Fogarty said.

Ibendahl defended the right of the homeless to circulate petitions, arguing that many homeless individuals do not like sleeping in shelters, and it’s more dangerous than living on the streets. “His residence is his residence,” Ibendahl said.

Former Constitution Party gubernatorial nominee, Michael White, expressed disdain for the entire political process after the board voted unanimously to keep him and other party members off the ballots.

“What I’ve realized from this process is that my whole voting lifetime, I haven’t had choices … it wasn’t because there weren’t people running for office, it’s because I never got to see them,” White said. “That explains George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich. We didn’t have anybody to choose from that we felt confident in.”

Ibendahl said he believed the biggest deficiency in the hearing officer’s recommendation was that candidates were prohibited from testifying.

“They were not allowed to testify in this case,” Ibendahl said. “I can point to at least two times where such requests were specifically denied. To say the least, that was a severe impairment on the candidates’ ability to present their case and go forward here … that is a fundamental, constitutional right in this country.”

Ibendahl told the board he believed it was a big enough reason to grant the candidates, who included White and another Constitution Party candidate, Randall Stufflebeam, ballot access.

Mike Labno, a candidate for U.S. Senate, was another member of the Libertarian Party who attended the hearing. He shared similar sentiments about the process, though the case he pleaded turned out to be a success.

“Quite frankly, I’m almost shocked we’re on,” Labno said. “I thought that somebody was going to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Nonetheless, it did go our way, but they definitely succeeded at what they wanted to do in taking choice away from voters.”

Labno also said the Illinois Republicans were pulling strings from behind curtains. “When I was down in Springfield for the objection process, going through line-by-line challenges, there were people there who proudly announced, ‘I’m from the Republican Party,’ or ‘I’m from the Bill Brady campaign,’” Labno said.

According to Labno, the Cook County Republicans announced they needed volunteers to help them monitor petition votes to try and keep Libertarian candidates from “stealing votes.”

“We proved our point to the point that the opposition withdrew their objection, but I still feel bad for Corey Dabne and the Constitution Party,” Labno said. “They didn’t get their fair shot. They certainly did a lot of work to do what needed to be done. They couldn’t play the game with the big boys.”