Steve Korris Aug. 21, 2013, 1:08pm

BALLWIN, Mo. -- Blaine Milligan, whose vote former Caseyville mayor George Chance challenges in St. Clair County circuit court, says he voted properly.

In an interview he requested, he said he left Caseyville but moved back.

“I re-registered when I came back,” he said. “George knows I didn’t vote for him."

Milligan, formerly Blaine Howell, called The Record after it published his name and four others that Chance accuses of casting invalid ballots in the April 9 election.

Chance’s recount petition identifies Ace Hart, former St. Clair County deputy Coroner, as one of four persons whose valid ballots County Clerk Bob Delaney didn’t count.

Delaney, however, ruled one week before the election that based upon information he received from the U.S. Postal Inspector, the absentee ballots submitted by Ace Hart and his wife Patricia would not be counted because their primary residence is in Florida, not Illinois.

In his lawsuit filed May 22, Chance claims qualified voters were denied and unqualified voters were allowed.

He alleges forgery on applications for absentee ballots.

Circuit Judge Stephen McGlynn presides over the petition. As of Aug. 14, there were no hearings set in the case.

Delaney (who stepped down as Clerk in June – a position he had held since 1999) certified Leonard Black as winner in the now contested election, 576 to 572.

Since the election, Milligan has moved again, this time to Ballwin, Mo.

At age 24, he has learned a lifetime of political lessons.

He said he started working for Democratic precinct committeeman Ace Hart in 2000.

“I told Ace Hart I wanted to participate,” he said.  “We hit it off and I assumed his position. He paid me to do his job while he was on his boat or doing something else.”

Hart, in a separate interview, recalled it differently.

“I was senior precinct committeeman 30 years, and one of the strongest,” Hart said. “I got that way by doing it myself.

“I thought he was a fine young man. He showed a lot of interest in the Democratic belief. I paid him to help me in the precinct.”

Through Hart, Milligan said he met party leaders such as Congressman Jerry Costello. He worked on campaigns of local legislators including Tom Holbrook and Jay Hoffman.

In 2008, he worked for the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. In 2009, he said, people asked him if he would run for village trustee.

“I kept getting pushed to do it," he said. "My family was pushing me to do it.”

He said he asked Hart.

“Ace said it sounds good," Milligan said. "We’ll make sure it’s okay.”

He said he thought that sounded strange.

He said Hart told him later he was pretty sure they would have Phil Carlton run.

Hart denies picking one over the other.

“Phil and Blaine were both neighbors of mine," Hart said. "As far as me having input as to who would run and not run, that’s not the case.”

Milligan said, “I wasn’t sure what to do. I was so close to them.”

He said they told him not to support candidate Brenda Williams.

He said, “She took my temperature when I was one. I love her.”

He said Hart told him it might start going around that he is gay.

“That freaked me out,” he said.

Hart said he couldn’t remember saying that.

Milligan said one can find the election result by doing a Google search for Blaine Howell, Caseyville.

“I won 374 to 359, but then I lost, 408 to 431,” he said. “Nobody expected the totals to change.

“Phil said he thought he lost. At 11 p.m., he was down 23.

"It seemed fishy. My dad and other people, we all knew something wasn’t right.”

He said he asked Delaney for a list of early and absentee ballots.

“Delaney replied to my request with a letter stating his frustration at my questioning of the election results, and how dare I accuse his office,” Milligan said. “No accusations were made.”

He said Delaney wrote that he should look at his own shortcomings before pointing a finger at somebody else.

“I was completely shocked to say the least,” Milligan said.  “All these political friends I had quit talking to me during this election.

“I heard, don’t show your face around here any more. “I thought about a recount, but I knew they controlled everything.”

In 2010, the post of precinct committeeman came open when Hart announced he would not run for another term. Milligan claims Hart had promised to turn the job over to him, and Hart denies it.

When Milligan registered to run, so did Hart.

“I chose not to retire,” Hart said.

Milligan said, “The Democratic central committee was unanimous against me including a good friend from high school.”

He said Delaney brought up that the committee endorsed Barack Obama and he endorsed Clinton.

He said mayor Chance stated that Milligan’s support for Williams was another reason to vote against him.

According to Hart, homosexuality didn’t cost Milligan the committee’s support but his Facebook postings did.

“The way he went about putting things on Facebook, I guess they took offense to that,” Hart said.

He said a picture of Milligan in female clothing was brought to his attention.

Milligan said he and Hart met about a picture of him with a hookah and a message implying he smoked marijuana. He said Hart showed him an app that allows one to create his own country.

“I told him it’s just hookah and an app," Milligan said. "It’s not illegal and I have no control over how an app on Facebook operates.”

Hart said, “I showed him a picture that was sent to me. If you see it, you would assume it’s what he was doing. I don’t know. I wasn’t there.”

Milligan said Hart told him, “I can make this all go away if you decide to step aside and not run.”

Hart said, “That’s not true. How would I make anything go away? How can you take back something that’s not there?”

Milligan said, “They passed the picture around town like they said.”

He said Hoffman and Holbrook wrote letters for Hart.

He said, “State legislators never get into a precinct race.”

Hart said he can’t remember, but he didn’t think they would need to write letters.

He said, “They knew I had a strong foothold in my precinct.”

Milligan said, “I lost, 80 to 29 or so.

“It was a crushing defeat but I didn’t campaign at all or ask for one vote.”

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