The Illinois State Board of Elections ruled Thursday that Republican candidate for St. Clair County circuit judge "B. Marshall Hilmes" will be allowed to remain on the ballot at the March 20 primary election.
Hilmes' petition for candidacy had been challenged by GOP rival Katherine Ruocco who argued that even though his voter registration indicates his name is B. Marshall Hilmes, he failed to note on his nomination papers that his full or Christian name is "Brandon," as listed at the Attorney Registration and Discipline Commission (ARDC).
Ruocco further challenged Hilmes' voter registration status and claimed he failed to identify in his sworn statement the specific office and the specific vacancy for which his nomination was sought, among other things.
"After a month and her waste of taxpayer money, the Illinois State Board of Elections will certify the name for ballot pursuant to statute," Hilmes said in reaction.
The state board's ruling on Thursday adopted hearing officer David Herman's Jan. 8 recommendation.
"She (Ruocco) argues that the proper interpretation of the statute requires that only a full first name (not the use of a middle name) is acceptable and that an initital may only be used for a middle name (not used for a first name)," Herman wrote. "However, there is no such limitation anywhere (in statute).
Herman wrote that Ruocco argued that use of different names would lead to voter confusion, however she did not present evidence to show "any such voter confusion."
Hilmes said during the proceedings that since his adoption as a young child he has used many "permutations" of his name, but has never used a different first name such as John or Mark, or a different last name such as Smith or Johnson.
"I have never changed my name," Hilmes wrote in an affidavit. "I was born Brandon Marshall Williams and was adopted as a child and my name was changed to Brandon Marshall Hilmes. My given name is Brandon Marshall. My surname was Williams and became Hilmes as a small child. I honor my father and mother by using all three names.
"I have used B. Marshall Hilmes throughout my life and especially as an attorney.
"I am known in the community and especially the legal community as B. Marshall Hilmes."
He also wrote that he carried a badge from 2008 to 2013, with B. Marshall Hilmes on it, and that every card he has handed out as a defense attorney has B. Marshall Hilmes on it.
Herman recommended Ruocco's objection be rejected.
He noted that during a hearing Ruocco attempted to amend her original objection to include a contention that Hilmes was not registered to vote at the immediately preceding primary election in March 2016, and therefore not a qualified primary voter as required by statute.
"Simply stated, objections cannot be amended," he wrote.
Hilmes, of Marissa, and Ruocco, of Belleville, will now face primary voters of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit in St. Clair, Monroe, Perry, Randolph and Washington counties. The winner will go on to likely face Associate Judge Heinz Rudolf, of Belleville, in the Nov. 6 general election.
The three candidates seek to fill a vacancy being created by Circuit Judge Jan Fiss, who is retiring at the end of his term next year.